Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
Curriculum Unit

Trekking to Timbuktu—Teacher Version (8 Lessons)

Created November 18, 2010

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The Unit

Overview

Timbuktu French Map

1743 French Map of Northwest Africa, depicting the areas covered in this curriculum unit.

Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.

Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, and silver from the country of the white men, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuktu.
—An old West African proverb

For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity. Situated along the Niger River on the edge of the Sahara Desert, it was a crossroads of trade routes stretching as far away as Cairo. At its peak in the 16th century, its universities drew scholars from many great cities of the Islamic world. Today, Timbuktu is but a shadow of its former glory, its ancient mosques and precious manuscripts threatened by desert sands and other factors, environmental and manmade. Fortunately, steps are being taken to preserve the city's fabulous past.

In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa. They will discover how Timbuktu rose from a simple watering place to the most important city in Islamic West Africa. And they will find out what is being done today to protect the city's antiquities.

Guiding Questions

  • Where is Timbuktu?
  • What is the geographical landscape of Mali? How did trade develop in ancient West Africa?
  • How did the spread of Islam influence the development of cultures in Mali? What were the origins of Timbuktu?
  • What kingdoms flourished in this region in earlier times? How did Timbuktu become a center of commerce?
  • Why did it become a center of Islamic scholarship and culture?
  • What caused the decline of Timbuktu, and how was it "rediscovered" by Europeans?
  • What problems does the ancient city face today, and what is being done about them?

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the geography of Timbuktu and the surrounding region of Mali
  • Explain how the local people made a living in earlier times
  • Discuss the influence of Islam upon the local cultures
  • Describe the three kingdoms that flourished in the region in ancient and medieval times
  • Explain the origin of Timbuktu
  • Relate how the city became an important center of trade
  • Explain how the city became a center of Islamic scholarship and culture
  • Discuss the reasons for the city's decline - and "rediscovery"
  • Describe the environmental threats to the ancient mosques and manuscripts
  • Discuss efforts being made to preserve the city's ancient past

Preparation Instructions

Read each lesson and/or activity. Select appropriate materials to use in class discussions and bookmark them. Download and print out the selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. You might wish to visit the following websites for general background information:

Unless indicated otherwise, all websites in this lesson are available through EDSITEment-reviewed resource National Geographic Xpeditions.

When reference is made during these lessons to taking a photo ("photo op"), the student should consider downloading relevant graphics for his presentation.

Unit Lesson Plans

Lesson 1: Trekking to Timbuktu: The Geography of Mali--Teacher Version
Lesson 2: Trekking to Timbuktu: Trade in Ancient West Africa--Teacher Version
Lesson 3: Trekking to Timbuktu: Timbuktu: A Center of Trade--Teacher Version
Lesson 4: Trekking to Timbuktu: Mansa Musa Takes a Trip--Teacher Version
Lesson 5: Trekking to Timbuktu: Timbuktu's Golden Age of Scholarship--Teacher Version
Lesson 6: Trekking to Timbuktu: The Search for Timbuktu--Teacher Version
Lesson 7: Trekking to Timbuktu: Restoring the Past--Teacher Version
Lesson 8: Trekking to Timbuktu: Assessment of Lessons 1-7--Teacher Version

Note: The suggested lessons can be taught either separately (as "stand-alone" units) or consecutively as an entire curriculum unit.

Selected EDSITEment Web Sites

African Studies WWW

Internet Public Library

Labyrinth

National Geographic Xpeditions

The Lessons

  • Lesson 1: Trekking to Timbuktu: The Geography of Mali (Teacher Version)

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 2: Trekking to Timbuktu: Trade in Ancient West Africa (Teacher Version)

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 3: Trekking to Timbuktu: Timbuktu: A Center of Trade (Teacher Version)

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 4: Trekking to Timbuktu: Mansa Musa Takes a Trip--Teacher Version

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 5: Trekking to Timbuktu: Timbuktu's Golden Age of Scholarship--Teacher Version

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 6: Trekking to Timbuktu: The Search for Timbuktu--Teacher Version

    Created November 18, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 7: Trekking to Timbuktu: Restoring the Past--Teacher Version

    Created November 18, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 8: Trekking to Timbuktu: Assessment of Lessons 1–7 (Teacher Version)

    Created November 18, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

The Basics

Grade Level

6-8

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Africa
  • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Anthropology
  • Art and Culture > Medium > Architecture
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Ancient World (3500 BCE-500 CE)
  • Art and Culture > Medium > Visual Arts
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
Skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Map Skills
  • Visual analysis
  • Lesson 8: Trekking to Timbuktu: Assessment of Lessons 1–7 (Teacher Version)

    Created November 18, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 7: Trekking to Timbuktu: Restoring the Past--Teacher Version

    Created November 18, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 6: Trekking to Timbuktu: The Search for Timbuktu--Teacher Version

    Created November 18, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 3: Trekking to Timbuktu: Timbuktu: A Center of Trade (Teacher Version)

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 5: Trekking to Timbuktu: Timbuktu's Golden Age of Scholarship--Teacher Version

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 4: Trekking to Timbuktu: Mansa Musa Takes a Trip--Teacher Version

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 2: Trekking to Timbuktu: Trade in Ancient West Africa (Teacher Version)

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.

  • Lesson 1: Trekking to Timbuktu: The Geography of Mali (Teacher Version)

    Created November 17, 2010
    Timbuktu French Map

    For many people, Timbuktu is a metaphor for the mysterious, the remote, or the unobtainable. But the Malian city of Timbuktu was, in fact, once a thriving center of commerce and intellectual activity.In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will learn about the geography of Mali and the early trade networks that flourished there. They will study how the spread of Islam influenced the cultures and economies along the Niger River. They will find out about the three kingdoms that evolved in ancient and medieval West Africa.