Parents Night and the Final Day at Arcadia

Last day of Anthropology is Elementary 2015

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We did not have an official lesson for the last day. Instead, we had an overview of the semester and discussed key aspects of anthropology learned.

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Ending thoughts

Thank you to the parents, faculty, and students at Arcadia Elementary. We had an amazing time.

This semester entailed weekly 45 minute sessions with rotating lesson plans that focused on a specific aspect of anthropology: cultural, linguistics, physical, and archaeology.

The program combined lecture based learning and lab setting activities to facilitate retention of material.

The semester was overseen by my professor and another PhD student, but individual lectures were designed and taught by myself (a graduate student enrolled in a class focusing on developing detailed lesson plans, plan creative academic exercises, and see plan to completion).

The program was designed to expand children’s worldview, therefore lessons were adapted to couple anthropological aspects of Alabama with international culture that the students likely have no prior knowledge of. This year we focused on West Africa.

Parents Night


For parents that requested the recipes:

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Body Adornment at Arcadia

Week 9: Body Adornment


Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.03 PMBody Adornment is “Decorating your body to show your social status, to express your individuality, as a rite of passage, or to chow your membership to a group like a clan or community.”

There are many different forms of body adornment. Body adornment is what you wear or how you cut and style your hair. It is also piercing your body, or tattooing your body or doing body paint.

All forms of body adornment aim to make the wearer look more attractive, show individuality, and represent status.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.12 PMHair:

The people of West Africa often intricately braid their hair. In other cultures, covering your hair shows respect for  the wearer’s religion. In our culture, dying your hair is a fun way to express your individuality. In many cultures cutting your hair is an important ritual.

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In Africa some women add discs to their lower lips, because it is considered beautiful in their culture. In India women wear elaborate pierces with tassels and jewels attached. Here in America we tend to pierce our ears.Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.37 PM


People all over the world tattoo their bodies and they mean different things to every culture. The oldest forms of tattooing come from the pacific islands, called Maori tattoos. These tattoos are status symbols. People with more money and power have more tattoos. Both men and women get tattoos. They are also seen as a sign of strength because they are done by inserting dye into the skin by hammering a sharpened stick into the skin to create the design. They are typically spirals that cover large portions of the face and body. Similarly, in West Africa tattoos are done to show status and are one the face and hands. Tattoos in America were traditionally for sailors or prison inmates, but today they are another fun way to express your individuality and unique character.Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.27 PM

Body Art:

Body art or body paint is another form of body adornment. It is not permanent and is done in most cultures at special times of celebration. In West Africa, men wear body paint in ritualistic settings and prior to war. In America, women wear make-up on a regular basis to enhance their natural beauty.


Clans designed tattoos that symbolized importance in their culture, rites of passage, or individuality. Next, tattoos were pained on to students faces.

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Ending Thoughts:

Students absolutely loved this activity! They were enthralled, entertained, and had great discussions about what each symbol meant. As this was our last lecture, I wanted to leave the students with a fun activity they would remember all year.

Human Osteology – TMSE

By Rob Barlow

This week I led the lesson on human osteology, which is the study of human bones. Osteology is valuable to anthropologists and can tell us many things about individual humans or a certain group of people. By studying osteology we can determine sex, genealogy, diet and even disease pathology. Faced with such a broad subject, I felt it would be best to simplify it and just compare human osteology to primate osteology. In particular, I focused on the western chimpanzee, who is native to West Africa and is a great specimen to highlight differences between humans and primates skeletons. The main areas I focused on were skull structure, teeth, pelvis, spine, femora, and feet. The reason I focused on these areas is because they highlight various evolutionary differences and differences in the way sex presents itself in the skeletons.


To begin I gave a very detailed PowerPoint presentation on the osteology of humans compared to primates. I started by comparing the skulls and teeth and talking about why we have the features we have, like a larger brain cavity and smaller teeth, as well as the differences between male and female of both species, also called sexual dimorphism. The rest of the presentation I talked about the spine, femora, pelvis, and feet and I discussed the evolutionary reasons for this and demonstrated how this allowed us to walk upright. The children enjoyed the lesson and had many questions that I answered to my delight, but I urged them to hold the questions until the end of the presentation because they needed to pay attention in order to complete the activity I had planned for them.

For the activity I had the kids become “osteologists” and perform skeletal analysis on a set of bones (casts) that we provided. They were given a skull, pelvis, and femora of either a chimp or human and had to determine what set of bones they had, as well as the sex of the specimen. I also gave them a worksheet that had questions about the specimens main form of locomotion, and what their diet or technology may have been.

Overall the kids were very engaged, they enjoyed holding the casts and I apparently I did as good of a job explaining the material as they did listening, because we ran out of time. Not to worry, we had an extra activity planned and the kids got to learn more about human bones and label them on a sheet. Overall this class was a success and it was a pleasure to teach such a vital part of anthropology to the Mr. Littles class.

Food at Arcadia

Week 8: Food

Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body.

Cuisine is about the style of cooking the food.

There are two distinct categories that all foods fit into – junk (or processed) foods and healthy foods.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.27.34 PMProcessed foods are foods that are prepared in mass numbers at factories to make it easier to make and eat meals. These include sodas, cookies, and chips.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.28.21 PMHealthy foods are food prepared in a kitchen for individual consumption. They include fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and beans.


Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.30.18 PMAnthropologists study food because it tells us a great deal about the people in a culture. The level of technology people have, the types of environment people live in, and the level of nutrition and health are all things that can be better understood by studying the food of a culture.

Pictured are traditional meals from West Africa, including squash stew and cooked bananas with beans. Students tried several dishes indigenous to the area.


Activity 1:

Each student group will free list for two minutes all the foods that they can think of, no matter the type. Then the students will take these foods and place them in different categories, such as good and junk food. Students were asked why they put these foods into different categories and discuss why each person may have different conceptions of what is good/junk food or what meal a food belongs in.

Students were very competent and realized that “chicken” or “potatoes” could be considered healthy or unhealthy, depending on how it was prepared. A student noted chicken breast cooked in olive oil is nutritious, while chicken wings dipped in buffalo sauce is not. Tea also ended up in the ‘middle’, because hot tea without sugar or milk is very healthy, but sweet tea is full of sugar.


Activity 2:

Students ate cuisine from West Africa, prepared by Anna. Some recipes were modified, however, to not include peanut oil. The students ate:

• Sweet Potato Fritters


• Banana Fritters


• Fresh mango


• Crickets (again)

I was happy every student tasted all four items available. No one in the class had eaten mango or sweet potatoes before (as far as they were aware). One student asked us to show a picture of a whole mango so that she could ask her mother to purchase one next time they went grocery shopping.

Ending thoughts:

During the first activity, most of the students noted they ate lots of processed foods and most of their meals were cooked in fatty oils or excessive amounts of butter. In deliberately choosing dishes popular in West Africa, we were able to expose students to cuisine outside of the traditional regional staples.

Race – TMSE

By Olivia Davis

Today in class, we discussed the concept of race as defined by anthropologists.

I began our lesson with a review of the four fields of anthropology and tried to tie in some of the other topics that we’ve covered that are related to each of the fields. As expected, they read the four topics that I had written on the slide instead of coming up with answers on their own, but since we haven’t covered all of them in our lessons yet, I cut them some slack.

For this week’s lesson on race, I started with the definition of the concept that is most commonly understood in our society– as a category of people generally based on a geographic location, and that are sometimes identified by similar physical attributes such as skin color, height, or hair type/color. After letting that definition soak in for a moment, I asked the class what they thought “race” was and I received some interesting and unexpected answers.

One response was, “…language?”

Another, “…the kinds of clothes that they wear?”

As pleasantly surprised as I was by their young “anthropologist” answers, I couldn’t resist questioning my own understanding of how kids view racial differences and what experiences have led to each child’s own idiosyncratic understanding. Their method of using cultural and/or social similarities as “identifiers” for certain groups of people instead of physical traits made my description of ethnic groups much easier and it seemed to be well understood by the class.

After the lesson, we split into our groups and each was given 5 laminated sheets of paper with the titles: American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and White. There were four boxes drawn on each sheet. Each group was then given a stack of cards, each of which had the face of an individual on it and a number at the top of the picture. Each group was instructed to categorize each person by placing their picture card onto one of the “race sheets.” Some rules that we gave them were that there could only be four picture cards per sheet and that each card had to be used before we read out the “answers.”


Something that I found particularly interesting about this activity was the different methods that each student was using to sort the pictures into their “appropriate” place. This stuck out to me as I walked by one group, to make sure that everyone was on task, and I overheard someone say, “Oh look, he’s angry.. He’s got to be an Indian.” It’s fascinating to think that something like facial expression or, on a larger scale, human emotion could be a contributing factor in racial biases and categorization.

Another method that I saw being used (by one student in particular) was referencing the pictures from the activity to people that the student knew outside of the classroom (in this case, an uncle who, according to the student, identified himself as a Hispanic/Latino). The student that was using this method was quite shocked to find out that the individual he compared to his uncle actually identified as “White.”


In all honesty, this “matching game” of sorts was a set-up, but its intention to reiterate the main point of the lesson was well received. The instructors and I knew beforehand that they weren’t going to succeed at the game but it served as a way to show them that skin color, hair type, and facial features (all physical attributes) aren’t accurate ways of categorizing people because most physical traits are found in multiple regions around the world.

The students were shocked by some of the people that they sorted incorrectly as I read aloud the “race” with which each person from the cards personally identified. Most of the confused responses and comments from students had a tone that indicated a sense of shattered confidence in the ability to sort people by what one can see— which is exactly what the instructors wanted.


Overall, I think this lesson was a huge success considering the current sensitivity to racial issues within our own society. My only hope is that each of these students will now think twice about “lumping” people together based on superficial information and their new understanding of the anthropological approach to “race” will encourage them to ask more questions about the world around them.