Museum Studies at TMSE

By Joyia Pittman

Four weeks into the outreach program at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary and we have covered a range of anthropological topics that include: culture, ethnography, and archaeology.

This was my first real experience at teaching and leading a class. I was given the task of presenting a lesson on museums. One response I received from the students was a flat out, “No!” (I thought that was pretty funny). This was actually one of my biggest fears in presenting this lesson, that they would not find it enjoyable. Luckily, we teach a great group of students who are always excited to learn.

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My lesson on museums included hearing what they thought a museum was and how they thought it worked. We talked about curators and exhibits and what purpose they served in museum work. One thing I wanted to make sure that I drove home about why museums were important, is the fact that artifacts provide critical information about the people who created them.  We have been focusing on Southeast Asia so to tie that in we traveled to Cambodia where we visited the National Museum of Cambodia. I made sure to use pictures and ask a lot of questions so that I was engaging with the students instead of just talking at them.

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For the lesson activity, we were curators. I explained to them that a curator is a keeper of a collection and it is their job to catalogue artifacts as they come into the museum. Each clan was given an artifact and it was their job to catalogue it. They were asked a series of questions and then each group presented to the class a little about the item they curated. This was the most rewarding part to me. I enjoyed seeing them be so excited about presenting their artifact to the rest of the class.

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Overall, this was a learning experience for me just as much as it was for them. I have always been the student, not the teacher. I think the students learned a lot from my lesson and they seemed to enjoy the activity, especially when they were able to present their findings. I am looking forward to seeing what information they retained when we free list next week. I think what the University of Alabama is doing with this partnership program is going to be extremely beneficial to us and the students at TMSE and I look forward to teaching them again!

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Archaeology at TMSE

By Hannah Tytus

Today was an excellent day at Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary! After three meetings, little kids and adults big kids alike have become much more comfortable around each other, and more willing to openly share ideas, questions, and curiosities. We had a lot of participation during both the lesson and the activity–group cooperation and focus has definitely improved since we first began.

We have previously covered Cultural Anthropology and Ethnography, and today’s topic was Archaeology. We of course began our session with a rallying CLAP, an acronym we use for the 4 subfields of Anthropology: cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology, and physical anthropology. A couple rounds of of progressively louder clapping made many faces go red with excitement (including my own!) and rose the energy level in the room to almost unmanageable heights.

Everyone vies for the chance to analyze the on-screen artifacts
Everyone vies for the chance to analyze the on-screen artifacts

But we plowed ahead! Our bright students first learned about what archaeology is and what it is not (i.e. we don’t dig up dinosaurs, and we aren’t all Indiana Jones.)  Then we moved on to the basic methodologies before talking about Angkor Wat, a beautiful UNESCO site in northwest Cambodia. Angkor Wat ties in our Southeast Asia theme for this semester, as well as providing a charming example of archaeological success. We learned to identify artifacts and interpret them intelligently.

The kids all did very well on this– I think we may have some future archaeologists in our midst!

ANT 450 Archaeology Pres (3)

Archaeology can be a misunderstood, sometimes dry discipline. So we like to spice up with a little bit of fun called Garbology. Garbology, in a nutshell, is archaeology but with trash. So we made like Oscar the Grouch and we dove right into our very own precious piles of garbage!

The task was to sift through the assemblages and separate the crumpled artifacts into useful categories,and then to use these categories to piece together a story of “what went down.”

As I was walking from group to group during the garbology exercise, I heard some fantastic stories developing: The Lego-Baticorn clan was busy constructing a narrative involving a big Valentine’s Day party that was thrown, and the mayhem that ensued. The Alabama Panthers seemed to have the trash of a family who owned a dog with some really  bad breath! Finally Les Juens–the egalitarian clan of girls whom Joyia and I get to work with–excitedly told a detailed story about an elementary school teacher who went on  a very, very eventful shopping spree. The kids were so engrossed in the activity that we ran over time–we’ll have to wait until next week to watch everyone share their thrilling garbology tales!

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The overwhelming enthusiasm shown today was very refreshing. Everyone in the room was in high spirits, and all were very involved in what was being taught.

I hope that next week our little community of scientists will be overflowing with just as much zeal as we talk about the wonderfully wacky world of museums!