Material World: How Do American Children Compare To Ethiopian Children?

This particular lesson is directed towards the second grade and compares the possessions of the students' families to that of an African family from Ethiopia, named Getu. All of the information needed for this lesson, may come from Material World: A Global Family Portrait, by Peter Menzel (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books).

Ethiopia is the only African nation never ruled by foreigners (except for a brief incursion by Italy). The Organization for African Unity has its headquarters there. It is 471,815 square miles, with a population of 58 million people. The population in Ethiopia is doubling every 23.1 years. The average life expectancy for a female is 50, and 47 for a male. The average per capita income in US dollars is $123. The ratio of people to cattle is 2 to 1. About 89% of it rural population is without safe drinking water. Teff, a cereal grain, is one of the most important crops to families like the Getus. It is planted twice a year. Many of the crops are watered with water fetched in pails from wells. Use of wood for fuel and the nation's abundance of livestock have caused some of the worlds worst deforestation and erosion. Ethiopia is in the process of trying to restart its economy, after several droughts and poor governing by Mengistu Haile Selassie. There is now a new coalition government in power.

Through Material World, children will become more aware of the differences and similarities between their families and the Getus, as well as families in many other countries. The book is excellent for comparing how cultural and geographical differences have an impact on family possessions.

The photographs in this book often times speak for themselves. They show how the dwellings, family size, dress, and other personal possessions, vary from society to society. Each section of the book, is represented by a family, which was chosen as an average family representing that country. On the first page of each section, the family representing that section, is captured in a photograph, in front of their dwelling, with all their material possessions laid out around them. These photos, create a very dramatic picture, and almost tell the facts by themselves. In the section on Ethiopia, it is easy to see that the differences are far more numerous than similarities between the average family in the United States and those in Ethiopia. The statistical profiles provided in factual form, give confirmation to, and compliment what is seen in the photographs.

Additional information may be found on the web at <www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/AS.html> (there is a lot of information at this site) and <www.AfricanOnline.com> (there is fun to be had at this site).

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