Summer Learning: Africa, Anansi the Spider and the Ashanti

aaa Weekly Trip to the Library

I care for three kids all of different ages. The three-year-old girl I care for was frightened of spiders so I borrowed the following books from the library to help her face her fear and now she loves spiders. Her 10-year-old brother is obsessed with the rain forest, while their teen brother loves teaching his siblings about Africa. So, on our trip to the library this week we borrowed children’s books that appealed to all three of my charges. The following activities nicely parallel the children’s books.

First we read, Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott. The book is a trickster tale from the Ashanti culture of West Africa. In trying to determine which of his six sons to reward for saving his life, Anansi the Spider is responsible for placing the moon in the sky.

Then we compared and contrasted other stories about Anansi by reading: The Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales by Joyce Arkhurst, Anansi and the Talking Melon by Erick Kimmel, Anansi Goes Fishing by Eric Kimmel, The Cow-Tail Switch: And Other West African Stories by Harold Courlander, and Anansi Does The Impossible!: An Ashanti Tale by Verna Aardema.

Activity One: Learning About Anansi and the Ashanti

Read Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashantialoud beginning with the prologue. Explain the unusual African words and names in the book such as: Anansi, mythology, Ashanti, Ghana, trickster, Kwaku, skinner, Nyame, artisan, shrewd, and rogue. Discuss the importance of the sons in the story. Ask the child what would happen if one or two were left out? Ask the child to think of a new son or daughter for Anansi. Allow older children to write a short story explaining the special ability of the spider they invented. Encourage children to “storytell” their own stories about Anansi as storytelling is a major form of communication of the Ashanti.

Activity Two: Be a Travel Agent

Have the child pretend to be a travel agent. You, or another child, should role play as a traveler who wants to go to Africa on a zoologist visit. List the animals the traveler would see and the locations where the animals live. The travel agent must tell the traveler when is the best time to visit Africa. What kind of clothing should the traveler bring? Map out the travel route.

Activity Three: Zoo Keeper of the Rain Forest

Discuss the types of animals that might be found in the rain forest. Discuss the environmental issues associated with the rain forest, such as removing too many trees leads to global warming and destroys the homes of the animals. Look at different designs on each animal in the book. What geometric shapes are represented? Spiders are not insects. Research spiders and find out how they got their names and other unusual facts, using our listed resources. Have the child write and illustrate a book of spiders.

Activity Four: Make Chocolate Pudding

Cocoa is a main crop of the Ashanti. Here is a chocolate pudding recipe to make with the kids from

You Will Need:
4 T. cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 t. salt
3 cups milk
4 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate, shaved or finely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

What to Do:
Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly stir in milk and chocolate. Place over boiling water and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Cover and cook for 15-minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in vanilla. Refrigerate until chilled.



  1. […] about how amazing spiders can be, how beautiful webs are, and help to reduce their anxiety. “Anansi the Spider” by Gerald McDermott is another great children’s book to read with children and do […]

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