Ethnography @ Arcadia! By Kelsey Kennedy

It was really exciting for me to start the new year! This was the second week we were with the kids from Arcadia, but my first time since I missed last week. We learned about Ethnography. Ethnography, as our students now know, is when anthropologists go to other cultures and write accounts of what they learn. This includes how they interact with other people, their beliefs, and important events. We also taught them about ethnocentrism (judging other cultures by the same rules and customs we live by). We tried to stress being kind and understanding of other cultures, which is something we will return to throughout the semester.

We started the class with an introduction for the kids benefit and my own. Then we introduced our lesson for the week. Our activity was a game like charades, except the kids had to be ethnographers and guess what the interaction was. They had to take notes as well, like a real ethnographer would! Hannah and I started as a warm up so no one was put on the spot. We also spoke in a made up, silly language to keep them from feeling uncomfortable. Our interaction was two friends seeing each other at the grocery store. Some of them didn’t understand and we had our first episode of disconnect with some of them. It’s just a reminder that we need to explain ourselves better; we may know what we’re talking about, but our little friends are just learning. We try really hard to stick to concepts that they can understand, so it was a good learning experience for us to have to rethink our directions and keep the kids engaged. The worst thing we can do is make them feel confused and self-conscious about concepts that are too hard for them to learn. After we sat down and spent a little more time explaining the goal of the exercise, they were able to understand the activity. Some had more fun than others getting up and acting in front of their classmates. We were happy that they could understand what was going on and they were able to guess each situation correctly.

After a few rounds of Ethnography Charades, we got to introduce a really exciting surprise. We are filming a video of the class this year that will be sent to a school in Madagascar who is doing the same program, and they’re sending one to us! The kids get to be the stars and the directors. They are going to get the chance to participate in real anthropology research and help us decide what the other kids get to see us do. This is a really exciting concept for the kids but also for us, because it’s a way of making anthropology fun for students and see how people from other cultures experience the same lessons our kids our learning. They were all really excited, so we got right into filming. There were a few who didn’t want to be in the film, so we made sure to let them know they didn’t have to be in it, but they could still help us film the other kids who wanted to participate.


We got their activity sheets from last week and let the kids explain some of the cultural terms they learned about in the last lesson: rite of passages, ancestors, totem, and a few others. It was great to experience how proud they were of their work and how enthusiastic they were to participate.


Overall, we had a great week learning about Ethnography. We hope we made it a special day for the kids, too. Next week is archaeology.

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