Culture and Clans – TMSE

By Holly Judge

Last week marked the beginning of the outreach program at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary. Five other UA students and I will be working with a group of third graders for the next nine weeks teaching them about different aspects of Anthropology, and specifically about the anthropology of Southeast Asia.

I think the program started off great! I didn’t realize how many groups taught at TMSE, and how varied the programs were. We all gathered in the gym for the students to be separated into the different classes, and then we followed ours to Mr. Little’s classroom. I didn’t realize the students had chosen to join our class, and that makes it so much easier to stand in front of them and teach.

Outreach instructors waiting to meet their classes
Outreach instructors waiting to meet their classes

The topic for this past week’s lesson was an introduction to cultural anthropology. I used examples from the United States, Indonesia, and pop culture to explain a few terms. In my lecture, I defined culture, norms, values, totems, and symbols. Before I would define them, I would ask the students if they had any idea, and then I would show them my examples. I also went over why it is important to study culture and who we can learn culture from.

At the end of my lecture I introduced the activity we all were going to do on cultures and clans. The activity was going to be separating the students into groups and having them create their own clan, including their name, shared ancestor, clothes, leaders, and more. After everyone understood, we separated the students into three “clans”. Each clan included two UA students to help and watch over the students. The students then started to make the important decisions regarding their clan’s culture. Some of these decisions came easy to agree on for groups, and some required using a little bit more compromise guided by the UA students. The students seemed to really enjoy the process. Unfortunately, time ran out before the groups were finished with their clan worksheets. We will get a chance to finish the activity after our next lesson.

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Looking back over my first lesson, I think I did a good job overall. I didn’t expect as many questions and interjections from the kids, so I felt responsible for my lecture going over time and us not being able to finish the activity. But I do feel like I explained the topic thoroughly and that the students had a good understanding of the material. The UA students did a great job of making sure each student’s ideas were heard, and they did a great job of helping the students compromise.


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