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.


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