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The History and Culture of Samoa - A Lesson Plan for 4th Grade

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/2/2012

Fourth grade history may seem like a challenging place to start kids learning about Samoa, but once you start reading about this fascinating place, I just about guarantee that you (and your students) will be hooked! Samoa is a land of rich history and famous names--so start your journey now!

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    About Samoa Culture

    Samoa is a very small nation, and its total population is only about 200,000 people. Many of them live on the island of Upolu. There is a high proportion of people in Samoa who continue to live in a village setting often surroundded by only a few hundred other villagers. In a Samoan village, many families are related and are grouped together as extended family groupings known as aiga, which is led by a chief. The capital city is Apia, although even this is small by comparison to many Western countries and cities around the world.

    Samoans enjoy a rich Polynesian culture that has been maintained to a large extent despite Western influence. The traditional kava ceremony which is used throughout the South Pacific region is still used in Samoa as a ritual and social custom. People sit around a carved wooden bowl and drink a liquid made by grinding the roots of the kava plant into a fine powder and then mixing this with water. The kava ceremony is used throughout the Pacific as a way of greeting people, making decisions, showing respect and as a beginning to formal discussions and deliberations.

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    This History of Samoa

    Samoa is interesting from a historical point of view. The Dutch were the first Europeans to visit in 1722, although of course Samoan history extends back a very long way prior to that. Early meetings between Samoan people and European visitors were problematic, with battles and loss of life a commonplace event in the early days. Various countries battled over ownership of Samoa in the 1800s, including Britain, Germany and the United States. Western Samoa was owned by Germany from 1899 until the time of World War I, when it came into the hands of New Zealanders. Independence was achieved in 1962, and now we have Western Samoa (more recently known as Samoa) and American Samoa.

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    Here Is Your Lesson Plan

    Try these neat ideas to get your fourth grade history students learning about Samoa:

    • Give each student a place card with the name of a person who has had a role in Samoan history, and ask them to research and report back to the class about that person.
    • Create a class folder of online pages found about Samoa, with an introductory summary to each section written by students.
    • Have students write a travel diary of life as an early European settler arriving in Samoa.
    • Make individual maps showing countries in the world that are 'owned' by other countries. Ask students to reflect upon the concept of 'owning' a country.
    • Create timelines showing visually how the history of Samoa has occurred over time, from pre-European times until now.