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.
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.