Accuracy in Africa: The Causes of the Sierra Leone Civil War as a Lens for Stereotypes of African Conflicts

Ian Joyce, Social Studies, Eastway Middle School

Final Unit(pdf)   Implementing Teaching Standards(pdf)


This cross-curricular unit is about the conflict that took place in the late 1990s in Sierra Leone. A large focus of this unit is literacy, as the students read a memoir by Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone. The book does not, however, address the true causes of the conflict in Sierra Leone. Therefore, the goal of the unit is to give teachers the background knowledge for the causes of the Sierra Leonean civil war and strategies to teach it to students. Another large part of this curriculum unit serves to challenge students’ assumptions about Africa as a whole (geography, culture, urbanization, etc.) while they read the memoir (or as the text is read to them). The book transports students to a particular historical context within Africa, in a very relatable manner, and thus they are able to comprehend and draw connections to modern African people and the modern African landscape as well. Activities and suggestions for A Long Way Gone can be found in Appendix IV. Those activities relate more to English Common Core standards, and would be great to implement in a Language Arts classroom. The strategies and goals outlined in the Teaching Strategies and Content Objectives will relate more to the Social Studies classroom and to causes of the civil war. For this reason, it is highly recommended that this unit is implemented in conjunction with a Language Arts and/or Social Studies teacher.