Ellina had a summer job in Nepal, so we took the opportunity to visit. Nepal is a very interesting country, and it’s worth studying. Bring this country into your classroom for an exciting lesson at any time of the year.
Nepal is mostly a rural country, but it has some cities. Kathmandu is a big, bustling city.
The architecture is very different from what we see in the United States, and streets and public areas and very crowded.
We saw lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Beautiful handmade goods are for sale everywhere.
Food is for sale in bulk, rather than in the cans and boxes we’re used to seeing.
A flat bread called roti is very popular.
Monkeys roam freely in some places, even in the city.
Monkeys still live in trees, too.
We also saw water buffalo and lots of birds.
The countryside is very beautiful.
It’s a great place to hike!
These terraced hillsides show a traditional way of farming in mountainous areas.
We also saw amazing artwork.
Start with some books! There are some exciting picture books set in Nepal.
Chandra’s Magic Light is a particularly good choice. This book tells the story of Chandra, whose little brother is coughing from the fumes of their traditional kerosene lamp. She sees a solar lamp in the marketplace and works with her family to figure out how to get one for her home.
The book includes plenty of local color, but the focus is on problem solving. The book has several pages of facts about Nepal, plus instructions for making a solar oven from a pizza box. Your local pizza parlor will probably donate pizza boxes to your classroom for this project.
Support this lesson with lessons on energy sources.
The prayer flags you see in some of the pictures are a very common sight all over Nepal, and you can add some to your classroom for a visual element.
You can also get a Nepalese flag. This is the only national flag in the world that is not rectangular
- The Nepal Tourism Board website includes lots of information written in an accessible style. The photos may not load, but their companion site Photo Nepal has lots of amazing photos.
- PBS has a collection of resources on Nepal.
- Wanderlust has a virtual tour of Nepal with lots of videos.
- Google Earth Nepal
Now that you have some background, it’s time to dive deeper.
For the youngest students, food is a subject that will make sense. Use Venn diagrams to sort out what is different and what is the same about food in Nepal compared with your community.
If you’ve read Chandra’s Magic Light, notice that the story begins in the market. Compare the market with grocery stores, farmers markets, and other familiar food sources.
Chandra smells spices: ginger, garlic, coriander, cardamom, and curry. Share our photo (above) of seasonings being sold in a market in Nepal. Bring samples of these seasonings into class and pass them around so students get a chance to smell them. Have students copy out the names and take them home to see whether they have any of these seasonings at home. When they return, make a class chart. Which seasonings did many students have at home? Which were less familiar?
Chandra’s sister bought lentils and honey. Honey will probably be familiar, but lentils might not be. Bring a few lentils in and let students look and touch. Lentils are also great for measuring practice if you are working on measuring volume in your math lessons.
Roti is the name of the flat bread shown in one of the photos at the top of this post. It is often eaten with dhal bhat, a spicy lentil and rice dish. The local saying is, “Dhal bhat power, 24 hour.” This means that eating dhal bhat provides energy all day. If possible, try the dish. If not, read the recipe and imagine it! Either way, ask students to draw a picture of this basic Nepali food.
The picture above shows a produce stall. How many of the fruits can students identify? The two pictures below show more food being cooked.
Discuss what is the same and what is different about these pictures compared with their kitchens at home. This would be a great time to try out a solar oven following the directions in Chandra’s Magic Light.
Older students can have a chance to learn some important lessons in economics during a study of Nepal. This can be a challenging subject and even a sad one.
Nepal is classified as a Fourth World country. Your students have probably heard about Third World nations and First World problems, but they may not have a clear idea of what these distinctions mean.
Common Sense Education has a lesson plan exploring First World and Third World countries. This lesson uses the terms “developing” and “developed” economies.
Once this distinction is clear, introduced the idea of Second World countries and Fourth World Countries.
- Second World traditionally described communist countries such as China and Russia. While it is still used to describe countries with centralized economies, it is also sometimes used to describe emerging markets — countries which are not as economically developed as the U.S. and Canada, but which are not (or no longer) developing nations. Mexico is one example.
- Fourth World countries are those which do not have resources to develop. They cannot be said to be developing because they do not have the basic resources to support their people.
Read the essay Poverty in Nepal. At one point, the writer explains how many hours a worker in Nepal usually has to work to buy one kilo of rice or one liter of milk. This is a great opportunity to review the metric system and do some math. Challenge students to figure out how long it takes to earn that amount in your community. They will need to figure out the price of the rice or milk in local measurements as well as choosing a wage to use for calculations. Consider choosing your local minimum wage. Then some math will be required to come up with a length of time. The answer will probably be a matter of minutes, where in Nepal it is hours.
You will also learn that the official poverty line (the level of income under which people are considered poor) is $77 dollars per year in Nepal. 40% of the people are estimated to live on less than that amount. How many hours would someone in your community need to work at a minimum wage job to earn that much?
The author lists the following causes of continued poverty in Nepal:
- Being landlocked
- Difficult geography
- Dysfunctional politics and civil war (1996-2006)
- Understanding poverty as a growth problem instead of a political or human rights issue
- Feudalistic land ownership system
- Subsistence agriculture
- High population growth
- Unemployment and underemployment
Divide your class into groups and ask each group to choose one of these factors to research and explain. Have groups prepare a poster showing the problem and present their results to the rest of the class.