The following learning tools build off the six-part series Spice Migrations, written by Jeff Koehler and illustrated by Linda Dalal Sawaya, to highlight social-studies concepts and explanations while building reading comprehension skills. Each learning tool builds a timeline and plots the locations of historical moments on a world map.

Cinnamon: Where did it come from?


The story Spice Migrations: Cinnamon, written by Jeff Koehler and illustrated by Linda Dalal Sawaya, focuses on one of the most-common spices around the world, one that was once scarce and mysterious. Early merchants kept the origins of cinnamon a secret and so kept a lock on the valuable spice trade. Eventually, the secret got out, and cinnamon became the ubiquitous spice it is today.

Key Terms

As you read the article, you will notice the words below. See if you can figure out what these words mean based on their context. Then click on the words below to see if you’re right.
  • Al-Ramhormuzi
  • Anointing oil
  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Cremation
  • Dexterity
  • Embalming
  • Herodotus
  • Kibbeh
  • Malay
  • Monsoon
  • Nard
  • Pervasive
  • Pilaf
  • Pliny the Elder
  • Pungent
  • Sinhalese

Key Concepts

This learning tool lends itself to learning three foundational social studies concepts:

  • the economic concept of scarcity;
  • the historical concept of turning point;
  • and the concept of migration.

Warm up

Before reading the article or doing the activities, discuss these three questions.

  • What do you associate with cinnamon?
  • Is it common in the foods you eat? Explain.
  • Is it expensive, easily affordable, or somewhere in between?


In this activity, build a timeline of events connected to the migration of cinnamon from the earliest times to the present.

Mapping Activity

In this activity, map the migration of cinnamon from Asia to Europe.


New mini lesson coming September 2022. Check back for updates.