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Lesson Plans
The Salt of Life
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials

Prep for Teachers

Prior to the teaching of this mini-unit, bookmark all Web sites used in the lesson. Cue the videotape to the appropriate starting point. Prepare the student organizers and handouts for the lesson by copying them for each student.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific responsibility to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1

Place a small mound of salt in front of the class. Ask students to guess what it is (Salt). Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to find out where salt comes from. Have the class visit the Web site http://www.saltinstitute.org/4.html to research this information. (Salt is found in both surface and subterranean deposits on Earth. These deposits are the remains of shallow sea deposits which where left behind as the waters receded at various times over geologic history. These deposits may be found at various locations around the Earth. For example, there are extensive salt deposits located in the United States – around Detroit http://www.saltinstitute.org/14.html, Texas, and the Bonneville Salt Flats of the desert Southwest.)

Step 2

Explain to your students that, at one time, salt was called “white gold.” It was used as “money” in ancient civilizations, and it is still a valuable commodity in today’s world. Ask your students to list why they think salt was so valuable. (1. Surface salt deposits were in areas difficult to access. 2. Salt is necessary to prevent dehydration in arid climates. 3. Salt was one of the principle means of food preservation prior to refrigeration. 4. Salt is a food additive. 5. Salt was rare.) Students may use the site http://www.saltinstitute.org/4.html for additional information about salt.

Step 3

Write the word “commodity” on the board. Ask students to write down three words that come to mind in relation to this term. Randomly select students to give their responses so that the class can hear multiple selections. (A commodity is something of value that is traded.)

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to list the top 6 metal commodities and their spot average price for each. Have your students go to the Web site http://www.nymex.com. Use the sidebar listing for charts under the header “Markets,” to find the metals traded commonly on the market today. Students will need to use the “spot average” link to find the most recent day’s spot settlement quote.
Now discuss what the commodities are and why they are so valuable. (Gold, copper, silver, platinum, palladium, and aluminum are valuable due to their intrinsic physical and chemical properties as well as their relative scarcity in the world today.)

Ask your students to explain write a short explanation (two or three sentences) of where and how one of these metal commodities listed in the market is made available for public use. Your students are now ready to find out about how salt trading takes place in the Sahara today.


Learning Activities

Step 1

Distribute the Graphic organizer called Here and There (see end of lesson) to the students. This sheet will be used throughout the program for taking notes.

CUE the videotape to the starting credits for Nature/Africa: A Desert Odyssey. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to listen for where this program is taking place (The Sahara desert) and what cultural group of people they are watching (The Tuareg- pronounced twa-reg). PLAY the tape until you see Adam get on a camel to ride and hear the narrator say, “…they combined it with their own traditions.” PAUSE the tape to allow for a quick check of student comprehension. Ask the students if they noticed any unifying characteristics of the Tuareg. (They wear blue/indigo clothing. The Tuareg are known as “the people of the blue veil.”)

Step 2

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to explain why the camel race is an important rite of passage for a Tuareg boy. START the video and play through the end of the race. STOP the video at the picture of the white robed figures dancing as the narrator states, “The wedding festivities last far into the night.” Discuss the student’s answers to clarify any misconceptions. (The camel race is a chance to demonstrate his skill. The camel has allowed the Tuareg people access to the desert.)

Step 3

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to predict the problems or difficulties they think Adam will encounter on his trek into the desert, and check their predictions against the video. Discuss the class predictions and write several responses on the board for future reference. Have the students listen and watch carefully to learn Adam’s fears before his trip. START the video and play it through the visual of the dead camel and the narrator stating, “but the harsh reality of the desert is another.” STOP the tape to discuss real and imagined problems shown in the segment. (Real problems include: getting lost in the desert, the temperatures, the blowing sand, lack of water; imagined problem is the Devil.)

Step 4

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to record the statistical information given about the caravan route and environment in the next segment. PLAY the tape through the visual of the rising sun just after the narrator states, “a journey of some 1500 miles.” (Largest desert on the planet – Sahara – almost as large as the United States, temperatures up to 136 degrees Fahrenheit, from Timia to Bilma to markets of the south, total distance 1500 miles.) Discuss the caravan route and length with your students. Ask if any of them have ever taken very long trips. Discuss how they traveled and how long it took. What were some of their problems on the trip?

Have the class discuss the saying, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” What do they think it means? Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to record the information about the load each camel must carry and why. PLAY the tape. PAUSE the tape as the narrator says, “tomorrow the caravan leaves,” and the visual of the rising moon fades from the screen. CHECK for student comprehension. (Each camel must carry dried grasses to eat as well as the food, water, and shelter for the caravan - 15 men, 1 boy, and 160 camels.)

Step 5

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to listen for how the caravan finds its way across the desert. PLAY the tape through the picture of Adam sitting by the fire just after the Tuareg states, “So we won’t get lost.” PAUSE the tape. Ask students how the caravan finds its way across the desert. (By following certain stars – astronomy). Discuss why celestial navigation is necessary (because there are few, if any, permanent features in the desert).

Step 6

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to discover why it is so important for Adam to make this trip at his young age. PLAY the tape through the visual of the caravan members standing and praying as the narrator states, “Last year’s caravan was a disaster.” PAUSE for student discussion of why a member of the family must make the caravan. (Adam’s father is soon going to be too old to make the trip.)

Step 7

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to record why Adam will need extra water, how long the camels will have to go without water, and how long it will be before Adam sees home again. PAUSE the tape to check for student comprehension. (Adam is too young to wear a headdress to protect him from the sun, five days to the only well on the trip, six months before home again.) You might want to have the students look at a map of Africa at this point and calculate the distance they must travel each day to make the well in five days. (35 miles per day)

Step 8

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to record what the ancient Tuareg caravans traded in and some of the places they ran between They should also listen for who the Tuaregs are competing against with their caravans today. PLAY the tape through the picture of the map and the narrator saying, "from Fez to Timbuktu.” STOP the tape and CHECK for student comprehension. (The ancient Tuaregs traded in gold and ivory, and they ran between Timbuktu and Fez. The Tuaregs are competing with groups of men in trucks.)

Step 9

At this point, break into groups of four or five students. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each group to visit the Web sites below and research the Tuaregs. Upon completion of their research, students should produce a tri-fold travel brochure detailing the culture and attractions of life among the Tuaregs.

http://www.nhm.org/africa/tour/desert/tuareg.htm
http://www.thehollandsentinel.net/stories/010701/new_Saharan.html
http://www.users.imaginet.fr/~yusuf/introduction.html#who

Step 10

Return to the video portion of the lesson and provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to explain how the Tuareg lifestyles of today are different from those of their ancestors. PLAY the tape through to the visual of the caravan reappearing as the narrator says, “For more than a thousand years.” STOP the tape and CHECK for student comprehension. (The Tuareg are farmers today; there is less water and pastureland for the camels.)

Step 11

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them complete the information in the Here and There chart during the next segment. PLAY the tape through the visual of Adam burying the ashes and wondering how he is going to keep up. STOP the tape and FAST FORWARD to the visual of the caravan walking in a mirage-type setting. PLAY the tape until you see Adam walking with his Uncle and the caption, “Adam, are you tired?” STOP the tape and have the students break into groups of four to do a think/pair/share type comparison of the observations they recorded in their charts.

Step 12

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to describe how the salt is “mined” at Bilma. PLAY the tape through the visual of Adam smiling in the market with the caption “He can sell the salt because he has learned Hausa.” STOP the tape. (The salt is drawn from shallow surface formations by solution in water, and the water is allowed to evaporate to a great extent, leaving large crystals of salt in the evaporating pools. These crystals are scooped up into molds or forms, to dry in the sun and harden into shallow bowls and cones of salt.)


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1

In order to establish haw a commodity affects a region, have your class log on to the State Mineral and Statistical Index at http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/state/. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to research information on the mineral industry in your area. Where are primary mineral deposits in your state? What industries utilize minerals?

Step 2

Ask your students to research the major industries in your area, as well as early industries that developed in the area after its initial settlement. Ask your students to develop a five minute presentation on the economic history of your region. (For example, coal and iron bearing ore were plentiful in the region around Pittsburgh. This later contributed to the development of the steel industry there. Plentiful iron ore and near-by coal from the eastern Pennsylvania coal fields helped in the foundation of the first iron foundry at Oxford Furnace in western New Jersey in the pre-Revolutionary period. Asbestos deposits were found and mined at Manville, NJ by the Manville Corporation. An entire community was established to produce asbestos for insulation and fireproofing.)



Cross-Curricilar Extensions

SOCIAL STUDIES/LANGUAGE ARTS/TECHNOLOGY
In order to formalize the learning about the salt trade and the Tuareg people, have your students use the Web sites listed in this lesson to research the life of the Tuaregs and the caravan trades. They are to use this information to plan a caravan route between two points of your choice. The route should be marked on a map. Students should also write a journal describing at least four days from the journey, including the first and last days, as well as two others spaced along the journey. The class must include the preparations necessary, a list of supplies to be taken, how transportation will be handled, staging (breaking the journey into parts), navigation, any anticipated difficulties and plans for emergencies. This project is best accomplished as a group project for five to six students per group. Each member of the group is responsible for a specific portion of the project. Everyone receives the same overall grade for the group project. It is up to the students to maintain their group’s work ethic.

VISUAL ARTS
Research the henna designs used by Islamic women for ceremonial decoration. Have the students design their own abstract patterns using the traditional designs as guidelines. Invite a henna artist in to demonstrate the art of henna application. (You will need parental permission for any student to have a henna design applied. Written notice and permission is strongly encouraged.)

SOCIAL STUDIES/ECONOMICS/TECHNOLOGY
Have your students explain the law of diminishing returns by acting out a barter system in which a commodity starts out as a fairly rare substance and then the market is increasing flooded with this substance. Let one group of students be the original buyers and producers and then gradually add more and more producers to the market. Have the students track the price of their commodity through the addition of producers. End the activity with a comparison of how technology is affecting the caravan salt trade of the Tuaregs. What do your students see as the future of the caravan-based Tuareg society?

Community Connections

Contact a local mine and arrange for a field trip.

Take a field trip to a New York Stock Exchange to see commodity trading in action.

Conduct interviews of older relatives or friends to track changes in society in the area you live over the past one hundred years. Students should prepare a list of 10 to 20 questions as a formal interview of their sources. These oral histories should be recorded if possible and transcribed to form a history of the area.