Who is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind?
William Kamkwamba grew up in Malawi, a landlocked country in Africa. During a famine in 2001, William was forced to drop out of school because his family could not afford it. He taught himself how to make a windmill to help out his family and his village. Time magazine named him one of ’30 People Under 30 Changing the World’ and once you hear his story, I’m certain you’ll agree that it is a well-deserved title.
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Recommended Reading: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (picture book version) is a great introduction to William Kamkwamba and his life. We chose to listen to the audiobook version of the Young Readers Edition of Kamkwamba’s memoir of the same name.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind Homeschool Biography Unit
Why did William Kamkwamba Build a Windmill?
Kamkwamba translated an American book called, Using Energy and taught himself how to make a wind turbine to create power for his home. As a result of this knowledge, he was able to help neighbors charge their cell phones and lightbulbs. He also used a windmill to help pump water for irrigation.
I mentioned in another homeschool biography quick unit about Lonnie Johnson that I like to include a hands-on activity with our learning. What I failed to mention, however, is that these tangible learning experiences do not have to come from a store. There are plenty of free wind turbine resources and ideas on Pinterest. Because I wanted to jump in and start the school year off with some planned out units, I opted to buy a Build Your Own Wind Turbine Kit.
It’s always helpful to include video when you can, to either introduce a topic or close out out homeschool unit. For The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, we watched the two TED Talks below. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is also currently available on Netflix. We haven’t watched it yet but do intend to in the coming months. It is almost all subtitled, and while they are easy to read, I want to wait until my son can follow along better without me having to interject every few minutes.
Teach Through Cooking:
The movie though is very engaging and helps depict what life is like living in an African village. I was inspired by the movie to recreate some traditional Malawian foods for dinner.
Incorporating food and cooking into a homeschool unit study is always a fun idea. We like to do it as often as possible. What was helpful about watching The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind movie is that I learned a lot about the types of food that would typically be eating in a village in Malawi. I was able to recreate Nsima and spinach to go along with it using these traditional Malawian dishes as a general guide.
Listen to William Kamkwamba Explain How He Harnessed the Wind
Chris Anderson facilitated an interview that introduced the audience to what Kamkwamba had accomplished in Malawi years earlier.
At TEDGlobal2009, William Kamkwamba shared his story about life growing up in Malawi and how he came to learn how to build a wind turbine. In this video, he talks about the first time he was on stage and how nervous he was.
I think this is a great jumping-off point for beginning conversations with kids about doing things that scare them and stepping outside their comfort zones. It could be a great starting point for talking about having a growth mindset and incorporating those lessons into your homeschool.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Rabbit Trail Idea
Whenever I research a quick homeschool unit, I try to include a variety of resources. Often though, it’s difficult to vet sources and determine if they’re accurate and fair or if they have ulterior motives. That said, I have a few videos on my radar that I intend to watch and either share segments of, with my son or have him watch in their entirety.
I learned the hard way, years ago to check out the content completely, before I assign it to my kids. In recent years, I’ve become increasingly hypervigilant. Specifically, with history curricula, I pore through it completely. This way I’m able to edit, supplement, or clarify information that is inaccurate, one-sided, or incorrect.
For this particular homeschool unit, I’ve not watched these videos in their entirety, so be sure to take that into consideration.
Memory’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Girl Growing up in Malawi
Growing Up in Malawi: A 7-Video Series from Credit Suisse
If you liked this quick homeschool unit, be sure to check out my fun Lonnie Johnson biography unit – he invented the Super Soaker; among other notable things. Your kids will LOVE this one!