Museums at Arcadia

Week 7: Museums


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A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and artistic, cultural, historical, or scientifically important items. They make these items available for public viewing through exhibits.

Some of the most attended museums include the Louvre in Paris, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There are many types of museums, including art museums, natural history museums, science museums, war museums, and children’s museums.  Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 4.26.23 PMMuseums have many different things on display, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, clothing, historical documents, and fossils.

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Anthropologists are interested the preservation of artifacts and the ability for them to be displayed for public viewing.



Each clan received one supply box in which to create their own exhibit. The art was created out colored paper, glue, tape, costumes, and other craft supplies. They named their exhibit and displayed all of their items. They then explained their exhibit to others.


Ending thoughts

IMG_6745This past week at Arcadia, the students became museum curators. Specifically, the Swimming Cheetahs became curators of the clothing and accessories worn by our clan throughout our long and fascinating history. Generous costume donations from the UA Theatre Department provided us with many options for expression.

To begin, we chose one person who would dress up as part of our exhibit. To make this rather difficult decision, we played the who’s-closest-to-my-number game, which will generally solve many of life’s most complicated questions. Our winner was chosen after she mysteriously guessed the number three, which was the exact number that had been chosen. Next, a blind vote led to the decision that this person would dress as royalty. Interestingly, it was a close vote with two votes for “everyday person” and three votes for “royalty.” IMG_6748

After these important decisions had been made, we decided on the hat, robe, and hair-feathers fit for our queen. This took nearly two minutes, so we decided that we should all dress as royal Swimming Cheetahs in the time remaining. The students had free range with their choices in dress.

To have the students think through the experience of curating a clothing exhibit, I asked them to place their style of dress (and themselves) in chronological order. Here’s what we came up with:

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We talked about why changes in dress may have occurred. Why did the king’s hat style change? Why did the queen’s robe change? How and why did the queen, formerly known as the Queen, become the Christmas Queen? Turns out, the Swimming Cheetahs really love Christmas. IMG_6753

I encouraged the students to “freeze” like statues. Juliann and I then “visited” the museum exhibit, stopping by each student while s/he explained where s/he fit in the history of royal Swimming Cheetah dress. Overall, it was a great exercise in museum design, and the students (and their instructor) enjoyed dressing as royalty.

  • Written by Anna Bianchi

The group assigned to me was tasked with building a model house replicating one, which might be found in a museum.  The group began by discussing what elements should be a part of the model.  The students decided that a roof and an outline of the floor were firsIMG_6755t priority and divided themselves based on what they wanted to create.  Two students built the floor plan on a foam pad using craft sticks, while two others began a roof using craft sticks and construction paper.  IMG_6756Those students who did not have a specific int-
erest worked with Robert to build a covered patio model from craft sticks, pipe cleaners and tape.  Students were encouraged to work cooperatively and share information between task groups so as to produce a cohesive final project. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented the project from being completed.  Nevertheless, the students displayed great enthusiasm throughout the activity and appeared to thoroughly enjoy it.

  • Written by Robert Templin


IMG_6752My group made headdresses. They really liked putting antenna-like appendages on their headdresses, and one of the boys decided to use streamers to make himself look like a squid.

The kids had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the activity.

  • Written by Larry MonocelloIMG_6757

Evolution – TMSE

By Melinda Carr

When I was a high school student taking Advanced Placement Biology in small-town Alabama, I was taught creationism, with evolution as a cursory side note.  On the exit exam and during my first few semesters of college, I felt as if I was very much behind concerning a cornerstone scientific theory. Therefore, I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to teach the students of the Tuscaloosa Magnet School about evolution so they would be better prepared than I ever was.

For my lecture, I wanted to make sure that the students had a simple phrase that they could easily remember about evolution. I thought that “change over time” was an appropriate way of explaining what evolution is and all of the natural processes it can represent, not just necessarily species. Also, I feel like small-scale evolution doesn’t get much attention compared to large-scale, so I explained what both were and the differences between the two. Also, I made sure to clear up the misconception that we came from monkeys and apes—rather we share a common ancestor with them! I come across college students today that still believe in that misconception, actually! I was surprised and amazed about how the majority of students not only understood what evolution was, but taught me a thing or two. For example, one student informed me that ants may have evolved from wasps.

For the activities, I decided to practice the concepts of small-scale and large-scale evolution. For small-scale, we played Evolution Telephone. I started off with the phrase, “Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Island to study finches.” This phrase was passed down the students in a circle. Something disastrous must have happened to the sentence, because by the time it came back around to me, I heard “Pickles Pickles Pickles Pickles.” The point of the game was that each sentence was a species and each change of a word was a mutation so over time, the sentence could evolve to a new species.  In our case, we had a whole another type of animal entirely! The students seemed to really enjoy this game and there were multiple requests to repeat the game.

Learning about Mutations
Learning about Mutations

For large-scale evolution, in the spirit of Halloween, we created monsters with special adaptations to survive their intended environments. The clans were given the savanna, rain forest, and under the sea. We were able to really splurge on the crafts and so our monsters had everything from feathers to be able to fly to the top of a rainforest canopy, to many googly eyes to see far and wide under the sea. The students were very engrossed in creating their monsters and this took up the end of the lesson.  I wish that I had been given more time to be able to review the key concepts of evolution and have the clans show each other their monsters with their adaptations.  That being said, I was very happy that the students were so happy to learn about evolution.

This Monster Adapts to His Enviroment
This Monster Adapts to His Enviroment

Primates – TMSE

By Molly Jaworski

This week at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School we discussed Primates. We started the class reviewing key concepts from our previous lectures. I asked the class a series of 4 questions to test their knowledge on what we have learned up until this point.

  • What are the four subfields of Anthropology?
  • What is ethnography?
  • What is Archeology
  • And why are museums important?

The students seem to grasp the main idea of each of these questions and as one student would answer it would jog the memory of another who wished to contribute to the answer as well.

After our review session I started this week’s discussion on Primates. My main goal was to make sure that the students could properly identify the definition of a primate and the differences in types of primates. After explaining what a primate is to the class I asked the students to identify the differences in Apes and Monkeys! Everyone in class was eager to answer. Based on their answers it was clear they didn’t quite know the difference between the two. They were shocked when I explained that apes don’t have tails but monkeys do! After a bit of discussion and some questions from the students I moved on to primate social organizations, which the students seemed to grasp easily. The next section…well it definitely caused the most commotion- Primate Diet! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the students knew the difference in carnivore, omnivore, and herbivore without any help from myself or the other instructors. The excitement most definitely stemmed from the image of the tarsier eating a bug (many students thought we would get to eat them during this class).

After the lesson I let the students ask questions and then we broke off into our clans for a bit of a competitive activity- A SCAVENGER HUNT! The students were to act as primates and replicate choices a primate would make with regard to security, group safety and survival.



Construction paper fruit (yellow and red)                                          Value:  5 points

Construction paper leaves/stems (green)                                           Value: 1 point

Construction paper insects (ants, grubs, and protein)                     Value: 3 points

Construction paper primate infants.                                                     Value: 10 points


  • Search the “forest” (classroom) to find as many calories as you can and bring them back to the troop.
  • Students must use primate locomotion (knuckle walking)
  • Primates can only carry one food item since they are not bipedal.
  • Students can steal food that is unguarded. They can also steal unguarded infant primates.
  • To be protected from stealing food or infants, two people must be at the “home base.”
    • One person is not enough to protect it.
  • However, student groups can choose to leave as few or as many people at the nest as they wish.
  • At the end of the time, groups will reunite and scores will be added up.
  • A group automatically loses if all of their infants are stolen.

I had originally expected the activity to take quite a bit of time for the students and so as an incentive we told the clans, as they were preparing their group plan, that there would be prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams. This did however; make them focus on winning and the hunt ended a little too quickly. At the end of the hunt the student teachers of each clan added the points of each clan and we announced the order of the winners. As promised there were prizes, and those prizes were……CRICKETS AND MEALWORMS!!!! The students were so excited to be able to eat these critters, some of them had been anticipating this for weeks! I was shocked that for the most part they were all willing, excited, and happy to eat the crickets and many of them enjoyed them!



Because the activity ended early. We needed to fill up the rest of class time with another activity, one that Lynn provided for the class. The activity was called Primate Anatomy, and she discussed evolution of the locomotion of primates and the differences of anatomy and locomotion of humans and primates. For the activity she had students walk normal, knuckle walk like apes, walk without the use of their knees (straight legged), walk without the use of their big toes (on the sides of their feet), and lastly with long toes ( paper was taped to their toes and they had to attempt to walk without bending the ‘long toes’).


Overall the class went extremely smoothly and the entire class enjoyed themselves. I was very proud at their ability to follow directions correctly and listen to their instructors during the scavenger hunt.


Evolution at Arcadia

Week 6: Evolution


Evolution is descent with modification, which consists of slow change in species over many generations

Natural selection is the survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype

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Mutation is a change in the DNA that can be passed down to the individual’s children

Genetic drift is random change in the frequencies of genetic variation, which causes change in a population but does not produce adaptations

Gene flow is the migration of a population and their genetic information to another place

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Anthropologists study evolution of humans and their closest relatives as well as cultural evolution. We are mainly interested in human evolution and that of our relatives.

Activity 1: Mutation Telephone

Starting with the instructor, a simple message sent through the line. There will be significant change in the message as it is passed along. This change happened from an accumulation of small mistakes the students made, much like mutations happen in DNA. Eventually, after enough time passes, those small mistakes add up to be large adaptations. These adaptations can even create new species that do not resemble the original species if enough mutations happen.

The first round of the game I said: “We love Halloween at Arcadia” and after being repeated 20 times, it ended as “We aren’t awkward”.

The second round of the game I said: “I am very excited for Thanksgiving break” and after being repeated 20 times, the sentence was basically inaudible, but close to “I want to shhhhhh”.

Activity 2: Adaptive Monsters

Students got ready for Halloween by making monsters! The students could create any kind of monster they wanted, but they had to be adapted for a certain landscape (Tundra, Jungle, and Under the Sea).

The students determined some important adaptations for each environment – 

Tundra: The ability to pick up short grass, ability to walk on hard ground for long periods of time, and ability to withstand cold weather


[Clan leader creation]


[This monster has wings to fly, claws to rip prey apart, spikes to shoot prey, and a thick coat to stay warm.]


[This monster has large teeth to eat and defend with, a large tail that smashes through the rough ground, and multiple layers of fur to stay warm.]

Jungle: The ability to climb, tails to maintain balance and run through trees, and nocturnal site.


[Clan leader creation]


[This monster has a long tail for balancing, multiple legs to run fast, and many snake heads to defend itself.]


[This monster grows bananas and throws them in defense. It is able to attract its prey by DJing on its record player.]

Under the Sea: Gills to breathe, large teeth to eat and defend, tails or fins to move


[Clan leader creation]


[This monster is able to glow in the dark. It moves throughout the water using tentacles. It has large teeth to destroy its prey.]


[This monster can electrocute others with its tentacles. It has many, many eyes that helps it see in the dark.]

Ending Thoughts

The students really enjoyed both activities. After completing “Mutation Telephone”, I went through the circle to determine where mistakes (or ‘mutations’) had been made. Students giggled as they confessed they couldn’t hear the person in front of them, so they just mumbled something instead. I pointed out that if evolution, these mutations happen over millions of years, and are passed down from generation to generation; until there is a different species entirely.

I was pleased with how intuitive and smart the children’s monsters were. They took time to understand their assigned landscape and put great effort into designing a species that would be adapted for the unique challenges it would face. Those who were preparing to live in a tundra all designed monsters with thick, heavy coats of fur. Every monster who had to survive living in the sea had gills to breathe. They also had tails, tentacles, or fins to allow them to move under water. The jungle monsters had claws to climb up trees and long tails to stabilize them.

Teaching evolution is challenging in any setting, but especially to young students… and especially in the south. Due to inadequate education standards, students receive poor evolution education here. Evolution is described as “only a theory”, with no further explanation that scientific theories are fact. Because of this, I was extremely nervous about presenting the lecture. I was concerned the students would have no previous understanding of the concept – or even been told evolution is a lie.

I am pleased to say I was completely wrong! Multiple students knew that evolution meant “change over time” before I began. Those who did not seemed to really grasp the basics of micro-evolution after the mutation game. I was even more impressed with how appropriately adapted the monsters were to their specific landscapes. Students asked cunning questions about why certain species are better adapted for certain environments, then others. It gave me an excellent opportunity to discuss macro-evolution.

Anthropology and Museums – TMSE

By Megan Crawford

This week at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary, I taught the kids a lesson on museums. My main goal was to emphasize the role that museums play in relation to anthropology, particularly, the preservation of artifacts and their ability to be displayed for public consumption.

We began with a brief review of last week’s lesson on archaeology. I began my lesson by first explaining that museums were not just for anthropology and that they could house art, fossils, books, and so many other things. I explained that museums were organized in exhibits and that the creation of these exhibits were the jobs of the curators. I asked the students what questions a curator might ask if they were trying to create their own exhibit. I got answers such as “How was it used?”, “Where was it used?” and “Who used it?”


Going off of their energy in answering this question, I explained the follow-up activity. In last week’s archaeology activity, the students were each given a midden of modern-day garbage to examine. They examined the garbage and determined the “story” of the garbage and made conclusions about the items in their respective middens. This week the activity was to use the garbage from last time and create an exhibit that would tell the “story” of that assemblage. Each clan would receive one large office supply box in which to create their exhibit and a plethora of colored paper, glue, tape, and other craft supplies. They were tasked with naming their exhibit and displaying all of their items to tell the “story.” They were also given the incentive that their exhibits would be displayed on Parent’s Day at the end of the semester just like in a real museum.

New Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation

I dismissed them to start their work and they all hurriedly went to their clans. An uproar burst through the classroom as the students tried to decide what to name their exhibits and how they should be set up. All disagreements were quickly worked out by the clan teachers and the kids began to build their exhibits. Each clan approached the project a little differently, but eventually all of the groups were able to build interesting, unique exhibits that displayed their artifacts in an interesting way.

As the class came to a close, the students were so excited and proud of their work, and I was proud of them and the awesome exhibits they made.

                 The Caterzilla Lightening Bolts


                    The Bug Catchers of Zathura


                      Clan of Zeus

Primates at Arcadia


Week 5: Primates


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Primates are any member of the group of animals that includes human beings, apes, and monkeys.

Apes are closely related to monkeys and humans, they are covered in hair and have no tail or a very short tail.

Monkeys are smaller, with tails. Some are prehensile and some are not.

There are two groups of monkeys:

Old World monkeys: baboons, macaques, colobus monkeys, among others

New World monkeys: spider monkeys, marmosets, howler monkeys, among others
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Most primates live in small groups. There are advantages to living in a group, including increased protection, shared parenting, and shared food supply.

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There are three main diets: carnivore (only eats meat), omnivore (eats meats and plants), and herbivore (eats only plants). Most primates eat fruits, which are high in energy, leaves, which are nutritious, and then some other foods they can find (like crickets!)

Activity 1

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Students play the meddling monkey scavenger hunt. This game

replicates the choices that primates make with regard to food

security, group safety, and survival. Students will be separated

into groups (each a different primate species) with a set number

of primate infants per group. The objective is to gather as many

calories as possible while protecting the infants in your group.

Scavenger hunt supplies:

  • Construction paper fruit (yellow and red) Value:  5 points
  • Construction paper leaves/stems (green) Value: 1 point
  • Construction paper insects (ants, grubs, and protein) Value: 3 points
  • Construction paper primate infants. Value: 10 points

Game Rules: 

  • Search the “forest” (classroom) to find as many calories as you can and bring them back to the troop.
  • Primates can only carry one food item since they are not bipedal.
  • Students can steal food that is unguarded. They can also steal unguarded infant primates.
  • To be protected from stealing food or infants, two people must be at the “home base.”
  • One person is not enough to protect it.
  • However, student groups can choose to leave as few or as many people at the nest as they wish.
  • At the end of the time, groups will reunite and scores will be added up.
  • A group automatically loses if all of their infants are stolen.

Videos of primate activity: Arcadia & arcadia2


Activity 2

EATING CRICKETS AND MEAL WORMS!!! Store bought insects were given to students who wanted to try them. Every single student did!

Video of students eating crickets and meal worms: Arcadia3

Ending Thoughts

I was so proud of my students for being so willing to try the crickets and meal worms. Several students mentioned they took this partnership class simply because they heard about this activity. Students in other classes found out we had these ‘snacks’ and joined in the activity! I hope this results in an even larger class next semester.

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Archaeology of West Africa – TMSE

By Rob Barlow

For the third week of the Anthropology Outreach Program at TMSE, Annakate and I taught a class on the archaeology of West Africa. Archaeology is a passion for both of us and we were eager to instruct on a topic we care so much about. Our shared goal was to make sure that we really informed the class about archaeology and why it is a vital part of anthropology. Archaeology is important because it can tell us much about past cultures that we don’t have the ability to observe, and we do this by by analyzing their material remains.

The students were engaging during the lecture part of the lesson and we thought that was wonderful. They had so many questions that we were actually taken aback by their eagerness. They were so intrigued that the lecture ended up taking much longer than intended, but, happily, it all worked out in the end. Throughout the lesson we made it a point to reiterate the selected vocabulary and by the end our students seemed to have a good grasp of these core concepts.

The students were also really into the part of the lesson that highlighted West Africa. This section of the lesson was led by Annakate and showcased artifacts from West Africa that were important to various cultures and their respective day to day lives. Some of these artifacts included tools for food preparation, canoes, and sculptures form different cultures. Finally, to segue to our garbology activity I explained what a midden is (archaeological trash deposit) and explained the garbology activity where the kids were to sort through the controlled (clean) garbage (artifacts) that we supplied them with and tell the story about the people it came from.

After the kids received the “artifacts” they began to sort them into groups by room and activity. Some of the most common groups included trash from a kitchen, office, baby room, bathroom, and even some trash from the upkeep of family pets. The kids all came up with great stories, but the one that impressed me the most came from the Clan of Zeus. They were able to come up with a story of a woman that was in her 30’s and attended Southern Mississippi University; she also had a baby later in her life.

One of our students examining some of the artifacts supplied to his clan
One of our students examining some of the artifacts supplied to his clan


As you can see, someone is a little excited about archaeology
As you can see, someone is a little       excited about archaeology


Our teacher is working hard with her clan to get their story together
Our teacher is working hard with her clan to get their story together

All in all the lecture and activity exceeded our expectations. The kids were engaged and really into sorting the garbage to tell the story. The great thing is that they will be revisiting this lesson next week when we talk about museums, in which the children will take their garbage and make an exhibit out of it and actually get to share with their parents the story they came up. We were thrilled with the outcome of the archaeology lesson and although we went a bit over with the lecture, it worked out fine because we finished as class was being dismissed.

Landscapes at Arcadia

Week 4: Landscapes


Cultural landscapes are created by people’s interaction with the world around them. These landscapes provide a sense of place and identity, they map our relationship with the land over time, and they are part of our national heritage and each of our lives.


West Africa has many important landscapes. For example, Sukur is ancient settlement with a history of iron technology, wide-spread trade, and a vast political system. The landscape is characterized by terraces on the farmlands, dry stone structures and stone paved walkways. The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali represents more than just a religion temple. It is the center of the entire city and is where the people of Mali congregate to eat, shop, and build community.



The students broke off into their clans and each studied a different area in West Africa. They focused on major cultural landscapes. The information was then complied and turned into brochures.

The “Burger Spiders” focused on Gambia

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The “Swimming Cheetahs” focused on Sierra Leone

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The “Lions” focused on Liberia 

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Ending Thoughts

Unfortunately, the internet was down at the school during our session this week, therefore the research had to be completed on the assistants’ phones. This caused the research to mostly be done individually, instead of as a whole group. Despite this small technical issue, the students still seemed to learn a great deal about their country. After completing research individually, the whole class came together and discussed their favorite landscapes discovered. Students’ answers listed below:

COUNTRY:                NATURAL  –     FEATURE    –     OTHER LANDSCAPE

GAMBIA                    Hippos                Gambia River       Stone Circle

SIERRA LEONE      Rainforests         The Moa River     Supreme Court Building

LIBERIA                   Guinean Forest   Mt. Wuteve          University of Liberia

Ethnography of West Africa – TMSE

By: Melinda Carr

For our second lesson at the Anthropology Outreach program at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary, I led the class in teaching about the Ethnography of West Africa. Since ethnography is  a word that even us Anthropology folks stumble over, I broke it down into ethno (the tribe and people) and graph (to write) and through repetition made sure that the students got this word down.

I was really very surprised and happy to see how involved the students were when it came to answering and asking questions! We brainstormed together different questions that an ethnographer would ask someone from another culture and I got so many responses! I learned that it really helps to remember the students’ names and to remember their hobbies and jokes that they told the week before and found it helpful to maintain an easy going and laid back personality.

The students were super interested in learning about the Wodabbe people of Niger and their Guerewol festival. It was puzzling for them to wrap their minds around the fact that the boys in this culture have to wear makeup and dance to attract the girls. This culture also has rules that are much different from ours, such as the fact that the first two children born are raised by their grandchildren rather than their parents. The students thought that this is a good reason for us to do ethnography—if we didn’t know this rule about their culture, we would think that the Wodabbe are not very nice people!


The egalitarian clan decides who will be ethnographer


The ethnographer reports his findings to his clan


Observing another clan’s rite of passage

We divided ourselves into our clans from last week for our ethnography activity. Unfortunately, we had two students sick and since our class is rather small, we had to combine the clans. The students were excited to decide among themselves who was going to be the ethnographer, or interpreter, or clan member. The ethnographer who studied the culture of the other clan could only speak to the interpreter, and could observe the clan members doing their rite of passage. Some of these rites of passage are quite elaborate and much observing had to be done in order to get it just right. After, the ethnographers reported to the class their findings about the other clan. We then ended the day with a discussion reinforcing the key concepts from the opening talk as well as talking about some of the problems that may come up when one does ethnography. Once again, I was very pleased with the enthusiasm from the students as they not only remembered the information, but were able to see why it was so important. We might have some future anthropologists in our midst!