Author: Melissa Anderson
Grade Level: Early Elementary
Brief Inroduction of the Masai
The MasaiThe Masai tribe is located on the open plains of Eastern Africa on both sides of the Kenya-Tanzania border. The are pastoralists, or nomadic(wandering, moving) herders of livestock. The livestock consist of sheep, goats, donkeys, and especially cattle. The Masai are especially known to be warriors. When the British tried to overtake and colonize Africa, the Masai fought back. "Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or intelligent than the mighty Masai." (http://www.macropress.com/howkids.htm) By and large, the Masai continue to practice their ancient rituals and ceremonies. Today, the number of Masai is approximately 250,000.
Masai men are classed by age into three categories: boys, warriors, and elders. They are not authorized to make decisions for the tribe until they are senior elders. Masai men between the ages of 14 and 30 are known as morans and live in isolation, learning tribal customs and traits to become a Masai warrior.
Masai women often have their marriages negotiated by their fathers before they are born. Masai women raise the children, build the houses, and tend to crops. They do not have property rights.
Where they live
The Masai live in kralls, which are small clusters of cow-dung houses constructed by the women.
What they eatTheir main diet consists heavily of meat and milk, but it is forbidden to mix the two. So the meat products are eaten first, then the milk. Along with meat, Masai prepare a variety of corn, sorghum, and other grains. The Masai drink a mixture of wine, cow's blood, and milk. One of the most popular meals is ugali, a porridge made with corn. Fish is an important diet of the Tanzanians who live on the islands and along the coasts.
What they wear
The Masai wear a lot of red clothing, which stands for power. They wear loose cloth and elaborate bead discs that hang around their necks. The women's colorful wraps are called kanga, and the men's are called kikoi. The men color their hair red with clay from the ground and they cut their ear lobes and insert earrings. To prove their braveness, teenage boys scar their bodies with heated spears. The beaded discs are made by the women and young girls.
* The traditional greeting between the Masai warriors is "kasserian ingera," which means "and how are the children?"
* Masai have many festivals and celebrations where they have lots of food and dancing.
* Some young boys, at the age of five or six, pull out their lower teeth to help them whistle to herd the cows.
Sources Used for this Background Page:
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1993.
"The Orphan Boy" Lesson Plan
1. Students will be able to point out some characteristics of the Masai people as The Orphan Boy is read aloud.
2. Students will write a descriptive poem about the Masai generally or about The Orphan Boy.
1. Introduce the Masai people to children. Show on the map where they live and give some information about them from the background information sheet included with this lesson plan. Show pictures if possible. Some of the topics that you'll especially want to talk about before reading the book is how the Masai dress, what they do during the day, and where they live.
The Masai live on both sides of the border of Kenya and Tanzania.
2. Read The Orphan Boy, asking the students to look for some of the characteristics of the Masai people that are brought out in the story. (The orphan's chores, the animals, the different characteristics of the environment, the climate, the red clothing they wear, etc.) Tell the students that you will stop a couple of times throughout and ask them what they have learned about the Masai. What did we see in the story that might help us know more about the Masai people?
3. After reading the story, ask the students if they think the story was true. What do we call stories like this that are passed down from generation to generation? (They are called legends or folktales) Can you think of other stories that can be considered legends or folktales? What makes them folktales? (They are not true; they are passed down; or they form a tradition)
4. "What words could be used to describe the Masai?" "What words describe this story?" Write the answers on the board. I would now like you to write a short, descriptive poem about the Masai or The Orphan Boy. Feel free to use the words on the board or any others you can think of, and illustrate your poem if you would like.
An example of a poem:
Lightly lifted by the hot breeze
Telling stories to children
1. While reading the book aloud, stop a few times and see what the students observed in the book that they had learned earlier about the Masai. Assess their responses.
2. Display the poems written by the students. Assess poem to see if it includes descriptions discussed in class or read in The Orphan Boy.