So this week at TMSE we learned about body modification! I was really excited to teach this class given that a lot of people think body modification is weird. But, it isn’t! I had to remind the students throughout the presentation that we also do body modification on a regular basis and that it is normal. To begin, I went over CLAP one last time, which stands for the four subfields of anthropology: cultural, linguistic, archaeology and physical. I then reminded them about our lesson on archaeology from last week and how it is the study of past people by examining things they left behind. To start off with body modification, I asked them what they thought it was and they gave me great answers! I was very pleased that they said it is when you change your body or get a tattoo. I then further explained to them that body modification can also be things like getting a piercing, tattoo or implants.
I then moved on to specific examples, starting with the oldest known tattoo, which was found on Otzi the Iceman. He has tattoos that date back to 3300 b.c.! I then gave examples of typical American body modification such as braces and tattoos and asked them if they knew anyone that had body modification. I then showed them other examples of body modification such as that of the Apatani women, the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia and finally that of the Kayan people. I had to explain that even though they may think it is weird, this is normal for their culture. I then moved on to showing them body modification seen in Indonesia, our topic region this semester, specifically tattoo tapping and teeth sharpening. Tattoo tapping is where they take two sticks, one which has a needle attached and is dipped in ink, that they tap together against the skin to create these beautiful tattoos about nature. I explained that tooth sharpening is done because the teeth were thought to represent anger, jealousy and other similarly negative emotions so they file them down. They were really intrigued by this.
After we wrapped up the presentation we moved on to our activity of giving them tattoos…. well not real ones. We used tattoo markers and temporary tattoos and gave the students whatever tattoos they wanted. Some of the tattoos the guys chose to get were bands across their foreheads, shields with their initials on them, and of course superhero characters. The girls got gold hearts, gold stars, and frozen tattoos even though they all agreed they really didn’t like frozen. They didn’t really have a preference of what they did not want – I think they honestly just enjoyed getting drawn on. They seriously enjoyed the activity and even gave me a tattoo. One of my students, sticking with the nature theme of the Indonesian tattoos, gave me a tattoo with my initial in the middle and then branched out vines and flowers onto my hand. I absolutely love teaching them and it seems as if they enjoy being taught by us.
For our third week at TMSE, we focused on Archaeology. But, before I started to teach them about archaeology I reviewed “CLAP.” CLAP stands for Cultural, Linguistic, Archaeology, and Physical. While teaching them about different archaeological sites of Indonesia the children started to ask many good questions. They also had really great answers for the questions I asked. One student in particular said that archaeology was the study of culture using the things they might have left behind. They also made great connections with the pictures from different archaeological sites in Indonesia. The site Candi Sukuh, for example, was compared to the Mayan pyramids and one of the students let me know that they originated in Mexico. They knew a lot more about archaeology than we anticipated and they are learning to make connections between the things we are teaching them.
After teaching them about Archaeology, we did our activity. The kids used spoons and brushes to dig through plastic shoe boxes filled with layers of dirt and sand. In each layer of dirt and sand we had placed lots of different things: actual shark teeth, crystal quartz and fossilized bones that I had acquired from my job working in the Paleontology department. Each student got to keep three shark teeth, two quartz, and one fossilized bone. They really enjoyed the activity of digging like archaeologist and keeping there artifacts. They were saying they want to take this class again next year and they were showing off their “cool” artifacts to everyone they met. I can not wait for next week when we talk about body modification! Ciao Ciao.
For our second week at TMSE, we focused on ethnography. After a recap of the previous week’s focus on culture and the four subfields of anthropology, we explained that ethnography is a tool that anthropologists use to describe cultures. We showed pictures from Indonesian celebrations of the New Year, a marriage, a birthday party, and school uniforms to discuss the differences between cultures and further their understanding of ethnography as a descriptive research method. The students were enthusiastic about culture and caught on quickly to ethnography. One student even noted that while we might see aspects of certain cultures as weird, they might see our own cultural experiences the same way and that we shouldn’t judge differences. After the PowerPoint describing ethnographic methods, we focused back on the cultures we had created the previous week and asked the students to choose an ethnographer from their clan. Given a worksheet with questions, the ethnographers were sent to the different clans to interview them about their cultures. The student ethnographers then presented their research to the class.
The students were excited to build their own understanding of culture and how easily it can be created and described. After the first activity, we played a game where one student was taken out of the classroom to change a small aspect of their appearance- an untying of a shoe, a rolling of a sleeve, a tucking of a shirt- and then sent back to the front of the classroom where the other students had to guess what had changed.
The student that guessed correctly was then taken outside and their appearance was changed. We cycled through changes until every student had a chance to go. The students loved this activity and easily grasped the concept of observation as an important ethnographic method.