Characteristics of Primates at TMSE
The lesson started off reviewing C.L.A.P. The students have reviewed C.L.A.P. so often they are able to explain cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology, and physical anthropology very well. I explained to the class that we’ll be going further into physical anthropology today by discussing primates. Well what is a primate? I asked the students before explaining to gauge what they might know already. All of their answers were good when they mentioned monkeys and gorillas, and I was especially impressed when one student said humans. All of those answers were correct. Primates include monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees, and even humans.
But why? What are the qualifications for an animal to be considered a primate? I had the students stand up. We went through a checklist that all primates could do and we all acted out those actions so we prove that we’re primates. We acted out that we have binocular vision by proving that our eyes face forward in our skulls rather than a deer that has its eyes on the side of its head.
Next we proved that we could comfortably change from all fours to standing up and walking on two legs. This is called bipedalism. All primates have thumbs so we all grabbed something with our thumbs – this makes us different from dogs because we have thumbs to grab with, whether it be a cup or a branch. Our hips and shoulder are more flexible so we all twisted our hips and shook our shoulders around. Finally, all primates can do something called brachiation which means we can hold our arms up over our head (which allows us to climb on monkey bars or throw a baseball).
Next, because Brazil is our topic country, we talked about primates in Brazil. I explained that there are over a hundred different primates in Brazil and most of those primates are monkeys. Some are big, like the brown wooly monkey, and some are small, like the capuchin monkey such as the one from Night at the Museum. The kids seemed really excited to be able to identify the monkey Dexter from Night at the Museum and to learn that he’s native to Brazil. The diet of primates was essential to know before we started the activity. The students guessed that primates ate fruits and leaves. I added on to that by explaining that sometimes they eat bugs too.
Our activity was called Meddling Monkeys Scavenger Hunt. The students waited outside while we hid “food” such as bananas, apples, bugs, and leaves around the classroom. All the students were monkeys and each clan was a monkey family. Each family was given three babies that one member must guard while the rest of the members go out and scavenge for food. The food items were different points and losing a baby monkey was negative points. While the students were scavenging they
had to walk around the room on all fours like monkeys. The baby monkeys must be guarded, but if they weren’t, the other teams can take a monkey from the group. Once all of the items that could be collected were scooped up we counted our points and got our winner. The students were so excited about the game we played it again.
The award for the students playing so well was cooked crickets for them to eat. There were two flavors: cool ranch and spicy. Half of the children seemed eager to try some while the other half was against it. Once a couple of kids had the crickets, most of the other children jumped on board.
It was great to expose the children to new foods as well as getting them closer to their primate relatives by eating insects.
The crickets were so much of a hit that we ran out and had other classes ask if they could try some.
Overall, teaching the characteristics of primates allowed the students to live a day in the life of some of their closest relatives and in doing so helped them learn about what it means to be a primate.