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South Africa Unit Study

I am having a blast writing a column for the Old Schoolhouse magazine called the International Schoolhouse.  In the article, I get the chance to share with you about the landscape, the history and the culture of the highlighted country, in this case South Africa.  However, there is so much to tell that simply overflows a 1500 word article that I have decided to compile the remainder of the information as a unit study for you. 

If you do not subscribe to the Old Schoolhouse magazine, you can read a sample issue here -  Or better yet, subscribe here - The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - and get the winter issue this month with the South Africa article that I have written, plus many, many more wonderful articles of encouragement from other inspirational authors.  It is their best issue yet.  Oh, and did I mention that you get 25 free gifts with your new subscription.

Okay, so now that you have read the article, it's time to dive in for some hands-on learning to cement your student's growing knowledge of this small but fascinating African country.

Unit Study:

1.  READING SELECTIONS - Let's start with some extra reading.  Listed below are some great books about South Africa, or set in South Africa, that will provide many hours of enjoyable reading.  The links below will take you to for more information, but you can find these at your local library.  Read for pleasure alone, or have your kids write a book report on one of these selections.


The first two books above are picture books for the younger set, but the second one, in particular - A South African Night - is a great book to learn what types of animals roam about the country of South Africa - within the confines of game parks, that is.  The third book - Animals of South Africa - is a coloring and workbook that also depicts the wild creatures of the land.  Finally, the National Geographic book would be a great resource for understanding the culture and environment of South Africa, as well as a bit of its history.  If you can take the time to make a quick trip to the library, you are sure to find some great books there that will enhance your knowledge of this region.

2. HISTORY & TIMELINES - Learn more about South Africa by compiling historical facts and events from its turbulent history and adding them to your timeline.  If you do not have a timeline on the go, you can construct one by following these directions - How to Make a Timeline Easily.  Here is a link to a wonderful resource for timeline entries about South Africa -  Here is another simplified for kids -,12405,384366,00.html.  

3. MAPWORK - A unit study would not be complete without taking a good look at the lay of the land.  Click here for both a labeled and unlabeled map of South Africa.  Have your students mark some of the major cities, the neighboring countries, and the seas to the east and west, at the least.  For older students, have them use your teacher's map and fill in the rest!

4. RECIPES - This is my favorite part - the food from the land!  I'm not very familiar with South African cuisine, or any African cuisine for that matter.  My only dish that I have served from that region in the past is called African Chop and I'm not even sure it is African.  It starts with a bed of rice and then all sorts of wonderful things are added on top.  This is the type of meal that you serve when you have a crowd over and every one brings a different topping - green onions, chopped tomatoes, nuts or sunflower seeds, coconut, raisins, peppers, hot sauce, whatever else you can imagine would be a fun ingredient.  You as the hostess provide lots of rice and a pot of shredded BBQ beef or pork.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Now for some authentic recipes...  Remember that this is a land where East meets West and North has come South - a land where Indian curries and Indonesian spices meet up with English meat pies and Dutch cookery.  The culinary tastes of this land mirror its geography, history and culture.

Here are a few favorite dishes.  Enjoy!

Tomato Salad

2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into thin slices
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch sugar
1 fresh hot green chile pepper, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Arrange tomato slices in a serving dish. Sprinkle with salt, sugar, and minced chile pepper. Drizzle on the vinegar. Let salad sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

Yellow Rice

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 cups white rice

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the first 7 ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rice, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon rind before serving.

Mealie Soup (Corn Soup)

2 ounces butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups canned whole corn, well drained
2 cups creamed corn
1 can evaporated milk
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over moderate heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Add the corn, milk, stock, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with crackers.

Bobotie (Beef Pie)

2 ounces butter
1 cup onions, thinly sliced
1 apple, peeled, diced
2 pounds chopped cooked beef
2 bread slices soaked in milk
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
6 bay leaves
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the apple dice and cook for another minute. Add the chopped beef and combine. Squeeze out the excess milk from the bread slices, then tear up and add to pot. Add the curry powder, raisins, almonds, lemon juice, egg, and turmeric, and stir well.

Place mixture in a greased 9 x 13" baking dish. Place bay leaves vertically in the casserole. Bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes, then remove from the oven. Mix together the egg and milk, then pour it over the Bobotie. Bake for 15 more minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Green Bean Bredie (Lamb and Green Bean Stew)

2 tablespoons oil
1-1/2 pounds lamb, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 cup water
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into 1" lengths
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2" dice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh hot chile peppers
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the lamb and brown it in batches. Transfer pieces to a plate.

Add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook over low heat. Return the meat to the skillet. Cover tightly, and simmer for 30 minutes over the lowest heat. Stir in the water, green beans, potatoes, chile peppers, thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover again, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately with rice.

Klappertert (Coconut Pie)

1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups water
3 cups finely grated fresh coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 baked short-crust pastry pie shell
8 strips candied citron, 1" long by 1/8 " wide

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. cook briskly, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches a temperature of 230 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the coconut and butter, and stir until the butter is completely melted. Let the mixture cool to room temp, then vigorously beat in the eggs and vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small pan, melt the apricot jam over low heat, stirring constantly. Rub the jam through a fine sieve, and brush the jam evenly over the bottom of the baked pie shell.

Pour the coconut mixture into the pie shell, spreading it smoothly. Bake for about 40 minutes. Filling should be firm and golden brown. Before serving, arrange the thin strips of citron in a sunburst pattern in the center of the pie. Serve warm or at room temperature; can be accompanied by whipped cream.

5. CRAFTS - Basket Weaving / Flora and Fauna Lapbook

The people of South Africa make some amazing and exquisite craft items that they use and sell to make a living, including weaving, beadwork and carving.  Take a peek at some various arts and crafts here on this South African travel website:

Would you like to attempt something intricate for yourself?  How about weaving a basket?  You can learn how to construct a simple basket by visiting this website -  Or you can check out a book such as this one from your library:


Would you rather attempt something a little less involved?  I would suggest that you and your students put together a South African flora and fauna lapbook.  Never made a lapbook? 

A lapbook, also known as a shutterbook, is a file folder which has been opened onto a flat surface. The two tabs are then folded into the center where they meet and form a window shutter effect. The concept is that mini books are attached to the inside holding various information which your child has collected and learned. A lapbook can contain games, vocabulary words, pictures, maps, recipes and clipart. You are limited only by your imagination.

Or you keep it simple by simply printing out some great photos from the internet (google search animals and plants of South Africa) and then pasting them into a file folder that can be decorated with some great patterns and bright colors on the front.

And remember to have fun!

Warm Regards,

Terri Johnson
Knowledge Quest, Inc. - try our maps free! - we are looking for authors for our new book - see what we're up to. - our business helping your business to succeed!


Terri Johnson is the creator of Knowledge Quest maps and timelines.  Her mission for the company is to help make the teaching and learning of history and geography enjoyable for both teacher and students.  She has created and published over 20 map and timeline products.  Her Blackline Maps of World History have been widely recommended in the education community.  Terri resides in Oregon with her husband Todd and their six children whom she teaches at home.


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