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Everyday life in West Africa, key stage 2

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 2
  • Subjects: Citizenship, History
  • Session type: Museum led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: International Slavery Museum
  • Free


A hands-on session using objects from the museum collection to explore traditional life in West Africa. Students work in small groups with teachers to explore objects that tell us more about the rich and diverse cultures that Africa had over 600 years ago

Further details

children looking at traditional African musical instruments

In this session, students will learn about what daily life was like in West African countries before the transatlantic slave trade began and will have the chance to find out more about West African cultures by getting hands on with objects from our museum collection.

The session will include five tables of handling objects covering these themes:

  • Daily life
  • Communication 
  • African Empires (including the Kingdom of Benin and the Empire of Mali)
  • Symbols in art
  • Festivals

After exploring the objects in groups, students will be asked to present their findings to the class.

Please be aware that this session offers a general overview of African culture before the start of transatlantic slavery and does not enter into the minutiae of the transatlantic journey or life on the plantations. If you are interested in exploring the subject of the transatlantic slave trade in more depth, a venue tour will complement this session well and provide an introduction to transatlantic slavery.

Curriculum links

Key Stage 2 - History

  • To explore a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history
  • To know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world including the nature of ancient civilisations and characteristic features of past non-European societies

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

Pupils will:

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of characteristic features of periods and societies of the past.

  • Understand how West African people use visual symbols to communicate information

  • Ask and answer questions, and to select and record information relevant to the focus of the enquiry.


Pupils will:

  • Develop object handling skills through working with the museum collections.

  • Improve their speaking and listening skills in a group discussion context.

  • Learn to give reasoned answers backed up by evidence. 


Pupils will be introduced to:

  • A number of West African traditions.

  • The significance of particular handling objects in demonstrating cultural significance.

  • The role of museums like the International Slavery Museum.


Pupils will:

  • Be inspired by the creativity of West African people.

  • Be aware of the diversity of African culture.

  • See the International Slavery Museum as an enjoyable and creative place to visit.