This is an educational and interactive Community
Please feel free to download any information that may benefit a community arts program in your area. We would love your input...


Lesson 1

Lesson 2
Social Studies

Lesson 3
Visual Arts
Art Making

Lesson 4
Black History

Lesson 5
Black Artists

Lesson 6
Music & Dance

Lesson 7


Click on images to see a larger version.

Pages Created by:
Paul Hillman

Couldn't open /users/web/artscare/web/cgi-bin/2023.06.log so I'm bugging out..

[TextCounter Fatal Error: Could Not Write to File _yoruba_chapter_2_a_shtml]

Lesson Two: Teacher/Student Activity

Introduction to Activity: The book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, is not culturally related to the Yoruba culture or African-American History. It is relevant to the lesson unit, because the story presents the concept of a spirit embodied within a tree. Yoruba culture, and other agrarian based societies that depend on the earth for their survival, feel objects sculpted out of wood contain the essence of a human spirit (Life Force). They view the tree as a metaphor for the tree of life, representing the lineage of one's ancestors. The Giving Tree provides the literary connection to this understanding of a human spirit being contained in an inanimate object. This concept is not normally embraced within the urban societies of Western thinking individuals. In Lesson Three, "Nigerian Art; Kindred Spirits", the participants will also learn how the Yoruba people define their concept of art, and how wood is one of the primary media used to create art works even in these contemporary times.

  • Gather the students together into a reading circle, reminiscent of the traditional storytelling circle to read The Giving Tree.
  • Explain to the students that the book being read by the teacher is a short story that many of them may have heard before.
  • It is a parable (again review the meaning of the word "parable") for all ages that offers a tender story about a boy and his life long relationship with a tree.
    Following the reading:
  • Explain that the message or theme of the story is a universal one about the gift of giving and an acceptance of another's capacity to love in return. (Shel Silverstein has been quoted as saying he feels there can be many themes in this story. "Children are able to deal with many ideas at one time."
  • Ask the students if they have ever heard the phrase "The Tree of Life" mentioned and if so, what does this phrase mean?

Footnote: The "Tree of Life" is a symbol that exists in nearly every culture. With its branches reaching into the sky and its roots deep in the earth, the tree appears to unite the heavens, the earth and the underworld. Scientific information makes us aware that in the "human/plant cycles of life" the green leaves or needles of the tree provide oxygen into the atmosphere that humans breathe. The trees in return utilize the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and use it in photosynthesis to promote plant growth.

Again as a symbol, the tree, in the study of genealogy, represents the ancestors of the family: grand parents, great grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This symbol, with its deep roots (family background), provides a strong foundation for values, ideas, and beliefs of the family, symbolized by the trunk of the tree. The branches of the tree are all the members of the family that have recently died or whom are living and are reaching out to life.

In many African cultures, including the Yoruba, the tree contains a "Life Force" or spirit that is alive and representational of ones ancestoral spirit guides. Many beaded objects in the Yoruba culture are carved out of wood. They are thought to contain the spirit of their ancestors that continue to communicate with them even when they are no longer living.)

  • The book is read and the students are asked to discuss their interpretations of the story.
  • Now bridge the concepts of a spirit in The Giving Tree to a "Life Force" or spirit in the Yoruba wooden forms, representating ancestors. In a sense the book becomes a metaphor to explain this idea.

    Ere Ibeji Beaded Sculpture - The collection of the Bead Museum.

  • Remind students that they are expected to be researching information about their own ancestors, because they will participate in an art making activity utilizing this information.

Student outcomes from reading the book:
Students will:

  1. Provide their own interpretation of the literature presented.
  2. Discuss wooden objects in African culture containing the essence of a spirit (Life Force) and these objects are many times representational of their ancestors.
Book review resource:

Reach High and You Will Go Far
by Joshua Sarantitis
Philadelphia Mural Project