MASAI AND I: A Cultural Comparison

by Amy McMillan

Grade Level: Early Elementary


1. Students will orally share similarities and differences between their culture and the Masai culture.


Copy of book, Masai and I by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1992. ISBN 0-689-80454-7

Chart paper or chalkboard to list brainstorming ideas.


1. Begin by asking students what they know about Africa and if they've ever heard of the Masai people. Ask what they think of when they hear the word Africa. Notice any stereotypical responses and be prepared to dispel those throughout the course of the lesson. (All African people live in huts or the jungle. They all wear exotic costumes. All people are the same in Africa.) Refer to background information given concerning the Masai people.

2. Read the book Masai and I with them. Discuss the circumstances mentioned in the book as well as others that the children might think of to compare the two cultures. This book compares the urban life of an American girl to the life of a young Masai girl in rural Africa. The book contrasts environment, homes, clothing, some food, lights and more. (Possible questions to ask students are: How might this book be different if it compared an American girl from the country? An African girl from the city? What kind of food do we, they eat? Where does it come from? Where do we, they get their light? What do we, they use for transportation? What is the environment, climate like in each area? What kinds of clothing do we, they wear? What other things live near us, them? What are the homes and buildings like? What kind of jobs do we, they have?)

3. On chart paper or on a chalkboard, make a list of similarities and differences you have discussed. Help lead children to adjust stereotypical thinking as you continue to make the chart. If the answers are slow in coming, ask them to think of what kinds of questions they might have if a Masai child were to visit their classroom. Possible topics include types of clothing worn, what food is eaten, types of shelter, modes of transportation, forms of entertainment, jobs and responsibilities and more.

4. End the discussion by focusing on the similarities. Ask them what they learned new about the Masai culture and Africa in general. Point out that we cannot judge people or make assumptions about things until we know all the facts. People may be different and do different things but we are the same in many ways (we all eat, sleep, laugh, cry, have families etc.). Remind them that what they have learned about Africa today is only true of one small group of people in Africa called the Masia.


Observe children's contributions to the chart and to the concluding discussion.

Possible Extensions:

1. Using the ideas generated through the class list, children can write a letter to a Masai child explaining their culture or asking additional questions of the child.

2. Have the children work together in groups to construct a diorama of a Masai village or as a class construct a model of a single hut. Be sure to have accurate representation of the grassland area (vegetation and wildlife) in addition to the village. Note strengths and weaknesses between their building materials and the ones we use.

3. Present the story as a choral reading with one group of children representing the Masai point of view and the other group as Americans. (Add props and present it to a younger class in play form!)


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