Material World:


How Do American Children Compare To Ethiopian Children?

by David Hunzie


Level: Early elementary


  1. Students will be able to discuss the difference between needs and wants.
  2. Students will create a flip book which identifies similarities and differences between their lives and that of a family in Ethiopia.


  1. Background information
  2. Material World: A Global Family Portrait, by Peter Menzel (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books)
  3. 8 1/2" by 11" colored construction paper (at least three sheets per student)
  4. Color crayons or colored pencils
  5. Poem Near and Far by Kate Cox Goddard (included in this lesson plan)
  6. Globe

Optional Materials:

  1. Overhead projector or computer overhead image projector (ELMO)
  2. Color transparencies of pictures used from Material World
  3. African artifacts
  4. Recording of African music


  1. Fifteen to twenty minutes for presentation of information and discussion
  2. Ten to fifteen minutes for flip book preparation
  3. Five to ten minutes of sharing


  1. Open with thought provoking questions, such as: Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your family lived on another continent, like Africa? Do you think your life would be different, and if so, how? Read them the poem Near and Far. "Little children far away, cross the ocean wide, though they do not look like us, are the same inside. Other children everywhere, I would like to meet, ones across the sea, and others down the street."
  2. Explain to the students that no matter where children live, they all have needs. Needs are the things they must have to live. These needs are food, a place to live, clothes, and love and care. You might want to list these on the board. Explain to them that like needs, everyone has wants. Wants are things that we can live without. Have a discussion on what meets the wants and needs of the students. (For example: Food-types of food they eat and the things their family uses to prepare and store it, such as stoves, refrigerator, pots and pans,etc., The Place They Live-house, apartment, trailer, what they are built from, etc., The Type of Clothes They Own-coats, pants, dresses, shoes, gloves etc., From Whom They Receive Love and Care-parents, grandparents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, etc., and Wants-toys, nice clothes, candy, etc. Model this by sharing with them your wants and needs. (Note: If the students are having trouble with this, you might want to show them the pictures of the Skeen family from Material World, pp. 134-143. Explain to them that the Skeens are an American family, like theirs, who live in Texas. Point-out items in the pictures which are wants and needs.)
  3. Make the statement: "Now we are going to talk about the needs and wants of a family in the African country of Ethiopia. The family we will be discussing lives in the city of Molulo and their name is Getu." Point out on the globe, where Ethiopia, Africa is located. Point out where the students live.
  4. Remind the students that children in other lands have needs and wants like them. They need food, clothes, shelter, and love and care. Show and explain the pictures of the Getu family from Material World pp. 28-35. (Note: Here you might want to ask questions such as: What would it be like to live in a dwelling like the Getu's, and cook over open fires? or How would it be to have only one set of clothes?) Ask the students if they see anything in the pictures which the Getus own which would be considered wants. This can lead to some interesting discussion.
  5. Have the students put together flip books, or have them already assembled (see instructions below). The first page will be the title page. On this page, students will write their name and the title "The Wants and Needs of My Family and The Getu Family." On the top section of the next page they will draw a picture of their house. On the bottom section, they will draw a picture of the Getu's dwelling. The students will label this page "Dwellings We Live In." On the top section of the third page, they will draw a picture of some of the articles of clothing they own (shoes, pants, socks, dresses, etc.). On the bottom section, they will draw the articles of clothing worn by the Getus (shoes, robes, hats, etc.). This page will be labeled "Clothing." On the top section of the fourth page, they will draw a picture of the types of foods their family eats and what they use to cook and store it. On the bottom section, they will draw a picture of the types of food the Getus eat, and what they use to cook and store it. This page will be labeled "Food." On the top section of the fifth page, they will draw a picture of their family. On the bottom section they will draw a picture of the Getu family. This page will be labeled "Love and Care." On the last page of the flip book, let the students draw anything they want about what they learned. Label this page "What I Learned." (Note: You might want to write the titles on the board for the students to copy.)
  6. Have the students get into groups, and share their flip books.
  7. After sharing, close with: "What we have learned today is only about one country in Africa. This country is one of the poorer countries of Africa. There are many countries in Africa which are very different from Ethiopia, and some which are similar."

Additional thoughts: You might want to have the students label the illustrations they drew in their flip books. If you want, you may do this same type of comparison for one or both of the other two African families described in the book. This would illustrate the differences and similarities between families from other African countries. Any artifacts, pictures, etc., which you could have on display would add to the lesson. African music playing softly in the background while the students work on their flip books, might help to get the creative juices flowing. If desired, there is more information available at the following web sites,< > (a lot of information here) and<> (fun to be had at this site).

Assessment: Evaluate student responses in discussion and look for understanding of objectives demonstrated in flip books.

Flip Books: Flip books are easy to put together. Using 81/2 by 11 inch paper, three sheets are folded and stapled on the common fold, with a long-arm stapler.

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