History of Zimbabwe: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Which of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World can be found in Zimbabwe? In this lesson we will explore the interesting, and sometimes heartbreaking, history of Africa's Zimbabwe.

Smoke That Thunders

Imagine traveling in a canoe down the Zambezi River of Zimbabwe! You eventually see a mysterious mist rising in the distance, which the African people call 'the smoke that thunders.' As you get closer to the misty spray, you hear a roaring rumbling sound. It's time to scramble to shore! The mist rising is from the world's biggest waterfall, Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The falls are over a mile wide, dropping steeply down into a narrow gorge. Stone artifacts have been found around Victoria Falls, telling us that humans have lived in the area for about two million years! Zimbabwe is a fascinating place!

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls

Where Is Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe is located on the continent of Africa between the equator and Tropic of Capricorn. It is a landlocked country, meaning it is completely surrounded by land. You can find river valleys, savanna grasslands, forests and mountains in Zimbabwe.

Map of Zimbabwe and surrounding countries

Great Zimbabwe

In the heart of Zimbabwe you will find one of the largest gatherings of ruins in Africa, called the Great Zimbabwe, which means 'houses of stone.' The structures were built between 800 and 1500 AD by the Bantu civilization of the Shona. Great Zimbabwe was a bustling trade center for the world. Did you know archaeologists found glass beads and porcelain from China and Persia (now known as Iran), brass trinkets from India, and Arab coins? Today you can see the remains of granite walls made of millions of hand-cut bricks that were fitted together without cement! Legend says that Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the Queen of Sheba, a biblical figure.


How would you like it if a stranger you didn't even know decided to give you a new name? This is what happened to Zimbabwe in 1898 by a man named Cecil Rhodes from Great Britain. He decided to name the territory that is now Zimbabwe, Southern Rhodesia, after himself. Rhodes was a politician, miner, businessmen and imperialist that wanted to expand the British Empire. An imperialist is someone who wants to gain power over another country or territory. Rhodes tricked African leaders into giving him control of their land. Soon white settlers began coming in and taking over farmland.

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