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Lesson Plans
The Salt of Life

By Nancy Miller
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 Four or five 45 minute periods
Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • Identify the conditions that define a desert.
  • Explain several cultural adaptations the Tuareg have made to their environment.
  • Trace the development of the salt trade in Africa.
  • Describe the effects of modern technology upon the salt trade and the Tuaregs.


National Social Studies Standards

Strand 2

Students will be able to:

Understand that historical knowledge and the concept of time are socially influenced constructions that lead historians to be selective in the questions they seek to answer and the evidence they use;

Apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity;

To identify and describe significant historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, such as the development of ancient cultures and civilizations, the rise of nation states, and social, economic, and political revolutions;

Investigate, interpret, and analyze multiple historical and contemporary viewpoints within and across cultures related to important events, recurring dilemmas, and persistent issues, while employing empathy, skepticism, and critical judgment.

National Science Standards

Content Standard A
As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop:

Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

Understandings about scientific inquiry
Content Standard C
As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of
Structure and function in living systems

Reproduction and heredity

Regulation and behavior

Populations and ecosystems

Diversity and adaptations of organisms

Media Components


Nature: Africa, Episode 2: "Desert Odyssey"

Web sites:

Rock Salt Mining

This comprehensive site describes common salt mining techniques and the locations of salt mines in the United Kingdom. It is broken down into pages dealing with location, methods, rock salt mining, and vacuum.

Rock Salt Mining in the USA

This is an NSTA Sic-Links site. It covers the manufacture of salt in the United States and the world. A pdf map of the major salt deposits and dry salt production sites in North America is included, as well as articles on salt formations, the use and importance of salt, and the ghostly salt city beneath Detroit.

What You Always Wanted to Know About Salt

This Salt Institute site provides links to pages with valuable information on salt as it relates to literature, poetry, fairy tales, and ”What you always wanted to know about salt.”

Life and Trade in the Sahara

This site allows you to learn more about the salt trade shown in the video. It provides you with pictures of the various groups of people who live in the Sahara, various landscapes of the region, links to more information on the Saharan petroglyphs (rock art), original source material from a traveler in the period between 1304 and 1368, an 18th century account of the locale, culture, and government of the society formed around Timbuktu, and several original source documents and maps.

Gold and Salt

This site provides information on the ancient salt and gold trade routes.

Salt in Ancient Africa

This site shows an article explaining the importance of the salt trade in the development of the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires.

How Western Cities Developed Around the Salt Trade

This site provides an article on the development of the port of Liverpool and its relationship to the salt trade.

Technology and the Salt Trade – 2000

A news article dealing with the changes experienced in the modern Saharan salt trade, as well as how technology is affecting the local culture and trade.

The Timbuktu Salt Trade

A short article detailing salt mining and trade across the Sahara to Timbuktu.

Niger and the Tuaregs

An informational site on the Tuareg of Niger, the area shown in the video.

Caravans Across the Desert

Use the side bar index to find the caravans across the desert pages of this site. You can find why the Sahara is a desert, the geography of the region, and the history of the arts, people, and society.

The Tuareg: Nomads of the Desert

Detailed pages on the life and culture of the Tuaregs.

The Tuareg

Information on the Tuareg lifestyle and society.

Who are the Tuareg?

Who are the Tuareg and what are their problems?

Tuareg Factoids and Pictures

Great page with lots of visuals on the Tuaregs.

Geopolitical Map of Africa

This site requires Adobe Acrobat reader to download line maps of Africa.

State Mineral and Statistical Index

This page will take you to information about the mineral industry in your state.