Website Review

African Studies Center

Boston University's Pardee School of Global Studies

Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies offers degree programs in most of the continents, including a BA in Middle Eastern and North African Studies. They also host the African Studies Center which features a wide variety of teaching resources. For educators who are new to Africa, or for those who are looking to diversify what they can do with African topics, this is a deep repository which we found very useful and easy to navigate.

The Center’s landing page breaks down their resources into introductory materials, grade level resources, topic resources, and featured resources. Thes featured resources include an interactive Gold Road map which is meant to teach students about the medieval West Coast empires. The map includes three empires and allows users to see the furthest extent of those empires as well as associated landscapes, places, people, trade/artifacts, and architecture. Users also have access to information and images of each individual feature. Another featured map is the interactive African Artifacts Map which displays clickable icons on the continent. When users interact with the map, they can click on the map’s icons to pull up information about the artifact, use the side bar to find artifacts regionally, or search for terms/regions. The maps might be a good starting point for student research projects, a useful classroom visualization, or a tool for comparison across countries/times. Another featured resource is a free online textbook dedicated to Apartheid, including its development and resistance. The book is intended for high schoolers and includes discussion questions.

For educators who are new to Africa, the website also features introductory materials includes foundational readings on the principles of African history and geography, guidelines for placing African history in curriculum, articles on how to engage with African history, introductory lessons and videos on Africa and how to resist existing African narratives in the classroom, and even a podcast aimed at teaching educators how to engage their students in African history.

The Center then splits their resources into grade level and topic. They include elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college-level resources. The Elementary resources include Children’s literature suggestions, lesson plans and activities, and principles for teaching African history. The lesson plans cover animals, geography, travel, artifacts, art, and games. The middle school resources also include lesson plans on artifacts and reading guides for books. The page also includes a large set of lessons and activities centered on the Swahili language and primary sources. There are also videos of several African languages with links to learn more about each language. Finally, the page offers a video library meant to give students an introduction to African culture, history, and geography. The high school resources include many of the same lessons, films,  and activities as middle school, with the addition of a few game-based learning activities and lesson plans on topics such as Apartheid, African Democracy, and Modern Africa. Another significant aspect of the high school resources is a set of resources on exploring disease and colonialism. The college resources are the same as the high school ones.

The landing page for the Center features a topic breakdown including Climate Change, Culture and Food, French, Genocide Education, Geography, Health and Disease, History, Literature and Language, Math and Science, Music, Politics and Economy, Religion, Visual Art, and Specific African Countries. Each topic page has a wide variety of resources including links to video series, book recommendations, activities and lesson plans, pedagogical suggestions, and countless links to other website’s resources. It would be impossible and impractical for us to detail each of these resources, but suffice to say that the Center hosts or links to resources on just about every African topic an educator might want to focus on in the classroom.

Overall, the Center has a wealth of resources for educators who are both new to Africa and well-experienced. Because they offer these resources alongside pedagogical suggestions for confronting stereotypes and misconceptions about Africa, they are also a good resource for teaching students about prejudice. The wide variety of resources also equips educators who want to find activities or readings for their students both inside the classroom and outside. The many lists of suggested readings would be useful both for educators wishing to get more background for themselves or to direct students towards more learning and exposure to African culture. Additionally, because the resources include history from all ages, but are primarily focused toward modern history and contemporary Africa, the site would be very helpful to teachers of human geography, contemporary studies, political science, economics, and other social studies topics.

Reviewed by Alexandra Miller, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"African Studies Center," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/african-studies-center [accessed April 14, 2024]
Map of Africa with colored points
“The Center hosts or links to resources on just about every African topic an educator might want to focus on in the classroom.”