Food and Semester Review – TMSE

By Hannah Tytus

This was our last day at TMSE! We’ve all had so much fun together this semester, and to conclude our program we definitely had to go out with a bang.

So we ditched the traditional powerpoint and had ourselves a traditional Southeast Asian feast! We took our shoes off upon entry and arranged ourselves on the ground in a circle to eat.Our home cooked meal encompassed cuisines from many different countries in the region, and everyone got a choice of how to devour their food: By fork and knife, like an American? Or perhaps chopsticks, like the Chinese? Most people went with the Indian option–to eat with their hands!

Once our guest of honor, Lynn, took her first bite, we all dove into the delicious food. It was both a rowdy and a joyful affair. Some of our dishes included pineapple tarts, seaweed salad, mango pudding, egg rolls, varieties of rice, tofu with bean curds, khao dome, and rice noodles.


As we ate, we discussed some key concepts from the past few months. Then we looked at the concept of a feast through the four different anthropological lenses: the biological perspective, the cultural perspective, linguistic perspective, and the archaeological perspective. It was an excellent exercise in learning that one event can be seen and interpreted in many different ways, which I hope is a lesson the kids can all apply to their daily lives. If we’ve learned one thing this semester, it is how to see the world through another’s perspective.

When the food had been cleared, we went on to the next part of our party: Balinese dance. Holly, who spent a large part of her childhood in Southeast Asia, led the class in some fun traditional dancing. Things got even wilder when the music turned up and a dance off was declared–whoever could be the most culturally relative and incorporate Balinese and American dance moves the best would be named the winner.  We got a lot of “Whip and Nae Nae”, a lot of twirls, and a lot of Balinese twists.


Eventually it was down to only two: Madeline and Sierra in their final dance-off. Whoever won this would be named leader of the Les Juens clan. Months and months of preparation had led up to this moment, and the girls were bringing their all to the dance floor.

It was Madeline who won! Our brave new leader rose her arms in triumph as the music faded out. What a spectacle it was!

Everybody wants to be an Anthropologist now. And this makes my heart smile.

Good luck to you, Madeline. And good luck to my other girls, India and Sierra. Fare thee well, Josh, Addie, and Keelan. The Lego Baticorns were the strongest clan in all the land. And of course, goodbye and good luck to the Alabama Panthers Makinley, Champ, and Evy. I hope you and your parents all have time to read these posts, and remember how spectacular you all are! We have really enjoyed being with all of you this semester, and wouldn’t trade our experiences for anything in the world.

See you next year!

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.

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.


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.


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.


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!



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!


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!

Ethnography in Action at TMSE

By Kelly Likos


The Anthropology is Elemental class challenges us each week to teach anthropology to elementary school students. This is a unique task because often we were not taught these terms until our own start with anthropology in college.

Mostly recently, I was challenged to try to teach a word to third graders that I had not even heard of before my Introduction to Anthropology class. That word was “ethnography”, something so normal in the Anthro-World, yet not anywhere else. And for third graders, it is all brand new.

As I explained it to the students, ethnography is the way anthropologists study, document, and teach others about cultures.


As ethnographers, we must observe other cultures (or in this case, clans) through unbiased eyes. For the ethnography lesson, I encouraged the students to don their own “Anthropologist Glasses” so they could see the world around them a little bit differently.


Throughout my lesson, I kept a steady discussion going with the students.

We discussed:

  • What is important to document about different cultures
  • What questions to ask when you are document cultures
  • The culture of Thailand
  • School lunches in the United States vs. Thailand
  • Ethnographer tips and tricks


The ethnography activity was quite the adventure for the students as well as for me. The clans each pick an ethnographer to represent their group and were sent out to collect knowledge about their neighboring clans.

I gifted each ethnographer with their own pair of “Anthropologist Glasses” so they could better observe the clans around them.



The ethnographers were in charge of collecting the following information about the other clans:

  • The clan name
  • The clan’s shared ancestor
  • If there is a clan leader, and how they were chosen
  • The type of clothing the clan wears
  • The clan rite of passage, song, or dance
  • Other identifying characteristics of the clan

Some of the clans had created awesome dances! Here are some clan members creating a new clan dance:

And here are clan members learning another clan’s dance…


The most rewarding part of this experience was watching the kids absorb the knowledge about anthropology that I presented to them. Each clan member was enthusiastic and curious to learn about their neighboring clans. My favorite part of the lesson was getting to have a fluid conversation with the students about anthropology and ethnography. We had some priceless discussions about school lunches, the best questions to ask other clans, and the Thailand culture.

I have such a strong love for anthropology so it was fun to get to share my love with the students of the Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary. Many members of The University of Alabama’s Department of Anthropology have helped shape my love for anthropology and I can only hope that I was able to do the same for our third graders. I look forward to being able to teach them again a little bit later on in the semester!

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.