Body Art and Modification at TMSE

By Kelsey Kennedy

This week at the school, I did my second presentation of the semester, this time on body art and modification in Southeast Asia. I was a lot less nervous the second time around!

The Discussion

This was a really fun lecture to do; Southeast Asia has a really diverse group of cultures that have some really cool body mods. A few of my classmates and I drew some tattoo designs on our arms before class to get all the kids ready for the day.
This was a really fun lecture to do; Southeast Asia has a really diverse group of cultures that have some really cool body mods. A few of my classmates and I drew some tattoo designs on our arms before class to get all the kids ready for the day.

I started out with examples from our culture that the students might be more familiar. For example, did you know brushing your hair and shaving are examples of body modification? I then broke it down into two categories of body art and body modifications. Body art is defined as “art that uses the human body as a medium,” and body modification is “any method of permanently adorning the body.” The kids did a really good job identifying examples from American culture that fit into these categories.

One of the slides from my Body Art presentation
One of the slides from my Body Art presentation

Since some of these cultural practices are extremely different than ours, I introduced a new vocabulary word: ethnocentrism, which is what happens when we judge a culture by our own standards. I made sure to emphasize that we couldn’t say words like “weird” or “ugly.” I was very proud because everyone handled it really well and no one said anything “ethnocentric.”

The Activity


The activity was really fun. With the supervision of the leaders, the kids put on temporary tattoos. We drew tattoos on their arms with washable body paint that represented the different clans. The kids had so much fun with this, and I think all the UA students did, too!


1The Lego Baticorns showing off all their body art
The Lego Baticorns showing off all their body art

Osteology at TMSE

By Holly Judge

Osteology (1)

Earlier in the semester there was some bad weather, and because of this we missed one week of class. We decided that we didn’t want to skip any of the topics we had planned, so we wanted to combine two lectures: primates and human osteology/locomotion.


I was responsible for the human osteology and locomotion portion of the lecture, and Joyia was responsible for teaching about primates.


1The class began with Joyia teaching about primates. The kids were actually really interested in this lecture so it took a lot of time. In order to have enough time for the activity, I tried to rush through my lecture a little bit.


I spoke about what osteology is, what it can tell us, and why it is important. I also spoke about locomotion, how humans move and gorillas. I ended with  an example of studying skeletal remains in Indonesia. I think the kids really appreciated the slide where I let them name and point out different bones in the human body. I was surprised at how much they really knew about the human skeleton!


At the end of my lecture I introduced the activity we all were going to do on cultures and clans. The activity combined the activity for primates (scavenging for food) with some aspects from the osteology lecture (they all had to knuckle-walk like gorillas). After all the “food” was found, the kids counted up their calorie points. Then we showed our surprise for the class – crickets and mealworms! Now, in my opinion, I’d rather have gummy worms, but they were all really excited! They were bragging about how many crickets and worms they had eaten. They are much more adventurous than I am.

Overall, I think I did a good job with this lesson, and I think the kids really enjoyed it. I do wish that I would’ve been able to have a full class for the lecture, I was excited to have the kids use their archaeology skills and discover some bones for themselves (of the sweetart variety, buried in some cupcakes), but you have to roll with situations that you don’t see coming. I think the kids enjoyed learning about osteology and bones, and that says good job in my book.

Primates at TMSE

By Joyia Pittman

Characteristics of Primates (1)This week’s lesson was a learning experience not just for the kids, but for me as well. This week I gave a lesson on the characteristics of primates. I received a very good reaction from the students once I told them what the topic was going to be. I know they were more excited about the activity than the actual lesson because they could not stop asking about it.

Regardless, their excitement helped me to teach better because I knew they were actually interested in the topic.


I always like to ask the students a lot of questions to make sure I am engaging them and also to be sure they are paying attention. They already knew so much about this topic so the lesson seemed to flow very well. We talked about what makes a primate and the differences in apes and monkeys. About midway through my lesson, a student raised their hand and commented that he did not believe he came from apes. This is where the learning experience came in for me. For some reason I expected this comment to come up in the evolution lecture, so I have to say that I was not prepared for what the student said. However, I think the situation was handled very well by myself and my fellow classmates. We wanted to make sure the student realized we are only presenting what the scientific community has to say about primates. We are not, in any way, trying to convince him that what he believes is wrong. I think with the help of my classmates we were able to convey that message while remaining sensitive to his beliefs.

2Other than that, the lesson went fairly smoothly. I concluded my presentation by talking about primate diet which lead right into the lesson activity. For the lesson activity, the students were to scavenge the classroom for fruit, veggies, and insects.

Characteristics of Primates (1)2


The objective was to gather as many calories as possible. The only catch was that they could not walk around as humans. They had to get on all fours and could only use one hand to gather the food. They seemed to really enjoy this part! I think they really got a kick out of being able to crawl on the floor and be silly. As a special treat, we gave the students dried crickets and worms.

Some students did not want to eat them, but most found them to be really delicious!


Overall, I think the lesson went really well and I think the students enjoyed it. I know in teaching there will be moments when unexpected things happen and you just have to adjust. If there is one thing I have learned from my time at TMSE, that would be it. The students at TMSE are so bright and have been a joy to get to know and teach.

Race at TMSE

By Kelly Likos



This week we taught our spirited class about race from an anthropological point of view!



To study race, I introduced the field of Biological Anthropology to the class! Biological Anthropology is defined as the scientific study of anthropology with genes, primates, and evolution.


At the beginning of my lecture, we completed a group activity to introduce different concepts of race. After that, I wanted to make sure to open up the subject of race as an area for discussion. I asked the students, “What is race to you?” and “What do you know about race?”. We spent a few minutes talking about the different idea that the students have about race. I felt it was important to approach race as a subject to discuss instead of an issue I am directly teaching to them. As always, race is a difficult subject to tackle and I wanted the students to understand this.

After our initial discussion, I shared the  biological anthropologist’s view on race. Stated simply: race does not exist. Scientists have not been able to locate precise characteristics that could define race among the human population. Race is not real. This statement was quite a shock to our young anthropologists!



While there are no individual races between humans, I wanted the students to understand that together we make up one human race! We are all connected to each other! I used the Beijing olympics to illustrate human living in collaboration as one race. It only occurred to me afterwards that our 3rd graders probably have no memory of these specific olympic games.

To continue our lesson, I explained the adaptive trait of melanin to our students. It is a popular assumption that race is correlated with skin color. I wanted to dispel this myth by explaining melanin as a cline trait relating to sun exposure. Skin colors become darker as we move towards the equator as a way to defend against sunburn.

I ended my time with the students by asking them to complete an activity. Each group was given different pictures of people and asked to separate them into distinct categories. After the sorting process was completed, I read aloud the ways each pictured person identified themselves. These labels varied far more than the labels we supplied with the pictures.


Our young anthropologists are so wise. When the activity started they immediately saw the flaws in our plan. We had just spent the entire class time teaching them that race does not exist, yet we asked them to divide people into these groups. When I read the results to each group, they were surprised to hear how each person self identified with race. This raised a lot of questions about how we should handle race in our everyday lives. My fellow anthropologists and I were pleased with the thoughtful questions they asked. We enjoyed continuing the conversation outside of the lesson, and I encouraged the students to continue to discuss these issues with their friends and at home.

I am so happy that I was able to teach these wonderful students again and I am glad that our anthropology lessons will be carried beyond the classroom in the hands of our students.








Evolution at TMSE

By Kelso Kennedy

This week I taught our group about evolution. As a student and lover of science, I was happy to be able to present this, but I was also challenged by having to condense such a rich and complex topic into a single lecture!

The kids were trying to find the moth in the picture; it's "adaptation" was really effective!
The kids were trying to find the moth in the picture; it’s “adaptation” was really effective!

I decided to keep the lesson simple (or I tried to at least!) and talk about the four forces of evolution: gene flow, genetic drift, mutation, and natural selection. The students were actually quite involved and asked numerous questions; these kids are great to teach because they are very eager, bright, and inquisitive.



For example, one student asked why in the example I used for genetic drift there were more red marbles in the fourth jar than in the third one, which helped me to explain that genetic drift is random and can favor a change in traits to become more or less frequent.

I tried to use a lot of pictures and examples to really drive home each slide.

The presentation slide I used on genetic drift. See the red marbles in the third and fourth jar.
The presentation slide I used on genetic drift. See the red marbles in the third and fourth jar.

We also learned words like trait and adaptation, and we took our first dive into the subfield of physical anthropology. We ended with why anthropologists study evolution and then moved into our activity.


My activity was a coloring sheet with three animals: a parrot, and moth, and a rabbit. These were all animals that I used as examples in the PowerPoint. You can view the coloring sheet that I created here:


3I gave each clan really different environments. I really wanted them to understand that the animals’ physical characteristics-their traits-changed in different places to help the animals adapt. I felt the coloring sheets would allow them to come up with some really creative ideas. I think most of the kids enjoyed it.