Week 1: Introduction to Anthropology & Creating a Clan

Dr. Brooke Persons, reporting for duty.

Our first week of the UA-TMSE partnership was a resounding success. We started off the semester with a brief introduction to Anthropology and a discussion of culture, a concept that unifies the four fields of anthropology. Culture, or the shared knowledge that guides behavior and distinguishes one group from another, permeates every aspect of our lives. In fact, as humans we soak up culture and react to cultural clues from childhood through adulthood, thereby providing the tools that we need to be successful within a given society.

The students provided examples of how culture guides behavior and then described the symbols, ideas, and characteristics of American culture. Their examples included:

-speaking English

-our national flag

-our national anthem

-our government

-the foods that we eat

-playing sports for recreation, including baseball, basketball, and soccer

To illustrate both how culture is created and differs between groups, the students were divided into small groups and they were asked to create a clan, or a group of people who share a common ancestor. Each student filled out the Creating A Clan Worksheet and then drew their own version of the clan totem. (The worksheet is available for download at the end of this post).

photo 1

(above) Sally working with the Wolverine Clan. (below) Rachel and Sophia working with the Predator Hunger Games Clan (front) and the Shadow Clan (back).

photo 4

Each clan created a unique culture and defined it by choosing a name, selecting a totem, identifying clan symbols, and deciding on a leadership style. Clan members collaborated to generate greetings and behaviors that were unique, including a clan chant and a ritual handshake. The Shadow Clan created an amazing clan chant that highlights their exploits, while the Wolverine Clan created an intricate handshake to help them identify fellow wolverines. The Predator Hunger Games Clan created a series of special holidays and chose a cat’s face with star emblems as a totem.

Here is the totem of the Predator Hunger Games Clan.

photo 1 (2)

Here is the totem of the Wolverine clan, which includes a wolverine print, a spider web, and a description of how colors are used as symbols. Green stands for encouragement, red stands for blood, while black stands for anthropology and prosperity.

photo 2 (2)

The clans were diverse and unique, although there were a few similarities. Next week we will discuss how anthropologists study culture as we continue our investigation into Cultural Anthropology.

The lesson plan for Week 1 can be downloaded here:

Week 1 Anthropology and Creating a Clan Lesson Plan

See you next week!

Welcome to UA-TMSE Anthropology Spring 2014!

Welcome to the blog of the Spring 2014 partnership between the University of Alabama’s Department of Anthropology and the Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Elementary (TMSE)! Over the next 12 weeks, this blog will follow our exploits as we teach an Introduction to Anthropology class to a group of 3rd and 4th graders from TMSE.

The goals of the TMSE-UA partnership are manifold, but our primary goal is to introduce elementary students to the exciting world of Anthropology through discussion, directed learning, and goal-oriented instruction. The students will learn about the four fields of Anthropology through classroom activities that will focus on Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, and Physical Anthropology.  An important part of this experience will also offer an opportunity for us (as educators) to gain experience sharing our world with elementary age children. The Spring 2014 TMSE partnership uses many of the activities that have been tested in previous iterations of the class, but we also hope to develop a few new activities and contribute to a growing body of outreach activities.

While the partnership has been a success for many years, this semester will bring a few new faces into the program. The TMSE partnership will be under the direction of Dr. A. Brooke Persons, an anthropological archaeologist and recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Anthropology. The TMSE will also benefit from the assistance of a select few upper-level Anthropology undergraduate students, including Sophia Fazal, Rachel Miller, and Sally Skelton. Throughout the semester, we will also be coordinating with Dr. Christopher Lynn, a Department of Anthropology professor, founder of the partnership, and developer of many of the classroom activities. Each of us will be blogging throughout the semester to share our experience of teaching anthropology inside of an elementary classroom.

By creating a digital presence for the Department of Anthropology-TMSE partnership, we hope to contribute to a broader dialogue about anthropology outreach and to confirm the place of anthropology in modern education. We will be posting a weekly update of our activities, including the lesson plans and classroom aids.

We look forward to receiving your comments and questions!