AFRICA: "The Orphan Boy"

Author: Melissa Anderson

Grade Level: Early Elementary

Lesson Plan 

Brief Inroduction of the Masai

The Masai

The 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." ( By and large, the Masai continue to practice their ancient rituals and ceremonies. Today, the number of Masai is approximately 250,000.




Masai Men

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

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 eat
Their 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.





Interesting notes

* 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.

Materials Needed:


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