Website Review

Exploring Africa

African Studies Center at Michigan State University

Exploring Africa is an educational website created by the African Studies Center (ASC) at Michigan State University. Its goal is to provide high quality resources about Africa and its nations for K-12 educators. Teachers and students can learn about themes relating to African history and information about specific countries in a well-researched, easily digestible format.  

The website is organized with five key educational sections. The homepage includes the site’s mission statement, an introductory video with a walkthrough of the site, quick links to African news stories, and the project’s contact information. The most informative section of the website is found under “Curriculum.” This is a self-guided course about Africa, its culture, and its history. It is divided into five units with thirty modules. The units are “Why Study Africa,” “Studying Africa Through Social Studies,” “Studying Africa Through the Humanities,” “Regional Perspectives,” and “Country Case Studies.” Each module includes an overview, a purpose, tips for interpreting sources, a glossary, focus questions, objectives, activities, suggested readings, and teacher’s notes. The structure of these modules display how they were specifically designed for teachers. The “Country Overview” section, where users can select any of the Africa countries to learn more about them. Each country’s page includes their flag, maps, basic demographic information, and links to other websites to learn more. The “News” tab provides links to African-centered news sites, as well links to popular articles from that day. The last section “Special Topics” provides information in an essay format about larger, complicated topics such as HIV/AIDS, Liberia, Africa and Iraq, the African Union, African sports, and the diamond industry. Each section is created by both education and Africa experts, making them trustworthy sources. 

One activity this site promotes is the exploration of individual countries. Students, individually if the class is small or in pairs, can each research an African country, and create a short presentation on that country’s history, culture, demographics, contemporary news, and how it fits into larger African trends or themes. The country’s Exploring Africa fact page would provide a good starting point, but then students could jump off to more detailed sources. This could be a research project done over a couple of weeks, or a more intensive homework assignment. This would promote students to learn about a country they might not be familiar with, and practice research skills.  

The site’s biggest weakness is that it does require the purchase of one of its features. To access the Lesson Plans, a one-time purchase of $10 is required. However, these lesson plans are mostly centered around classroom activities, and are designed to be “supplemental [emphasis mine] to the lessons in the modules in Exploring Africa.” While some might find these lesson plans helpful, they are not necessary to gain use from this website. Another issue with Exploring Africa is the map under the “Country Overview” tab. The map is designed for users to click on a country, and then be taken to that country’s fact page. Five African countries (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Namibia, and Côte d’Ivoire), while visible on the map, do not have an interactive element, and cannot be clicked on. These countries can be accessed through the drop down, but this is inconvenient and potentially confusing for users. Despite the paywall for lesson plans and an incomplete feature, Exploring Africa is still a thorough and well-done website for African education.  

Reviewed by Savannah Scott, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"Exploring Africa," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/exploring-africa [accessed April 15, 2024]
Boats and people on a Ghanian river
“Its goal is to provide high quality resources about Africa and its nations for K-12 educators. Teachers and students can learn about themes relating to African history and information about specific countries in a well-researched, easily digestible format.”