Experiential learning is important across the University of Alabama, and Anthropology is no different. Students in my “Primate Religion and Human Consciousness” (UH 300) and “Evolution for Everyone” courses had fun (I hope) this semester with a few of the activities I set up. Primate Religion & Human Consciousness is a course in the cognitive science of religion I teach every spring for the Honors College. This semester we explored cooperation and prosociality by replicating Milgram’s “lost letter” study in Tuscaloosa. Students stuffed envelopes with fake money and sheets with pre-set locations, addressed the envelopes to me, put stamps on them, and dropped them off around town to see how many would be returned from various districts. They also chose cooperative groups (two teams chose churches and the other team chose the UA swim team) to investigate how cooperation is inculcated and maintained. I was impressed at the students’ integration of the two activities in developing conclusions about the roles of sociality in communities that were contrary to many of their initial expectations.
In “Evolution for Everyone” (ANT 150), the goal is to expose students to evolutionary principles and their cross-disciplinary applications and implications. This semester, drawing instructor Charlotte Wegrzynowski introduced students to the principles of drawing, which was once a basic skill of field naturalists before the age of photography. This activity emphasized different ways of knowing and the details we often miss or can never understand without the experience of paying close attention to the parts that make up the whole and the connections between our intellectual and kinesthetic experiences.