Week 6: Genetics

Hello all!
This week’s lesson tackled genetics. This lesson was the start as we enter the biological anthropology realm. Genetics is important to the field of anthropology for it allows us to shed light on the molecular similarities that all individuals share.
The students were taught the basics of DNA and how to differentiate between one’s genotype (genetic make up) and phenotype (outward, physical, expression of genes). The class activity that was done for the day examined various traits across students in the class. Using a list of traits (presence of a widow’ speak, hitchhiker’s thumb, attached earlobes, etc), the students were able to identify whether or not they had a trait and group with other classmates who shared that same trait.
The goal of this exercise was to exemplify the diversity that is accounted for by genetics. Each of the traits we looked at had the possibility of either being expressed as being dominant or recessive. The students were not told prior to the exercise what exactly it meant to be “dominant” or “recessive” but quickly picked up on the fact that those terms have nothing to do with the frequency that which they occur–they simply refer to how they show up in your DNA.  For the sake of simplicity, genes are expressed by alleles which can be written as being an uppercase (A) or lowercase (a) notation. Recessive refers to a gene being written as “aa” (homozygous recessive) or “AA” (homozygous dominant) or “Aa” (heterozygous dominant).
Through our exercise, the students found that they had a variety of similarities with their classmates–some that they had never thought of before! Chance plays a large role in genetics and it is through chance (such as genetic random mutations in our DNA) that causes diversity among us all. This lesson was an eye opener in showing us that there is always more than meets the eye.

Week 4: Museum Anthropology

 

Snow days cannot hold us back! I’m Rachel Miller, an Anthropology and Biology student here at UA and am happy to be part of the UA Partnership at TMSE. I am happy to report that we are back on track after having a few unexpected snow days over the past few weeks. Today we covered Museum Anthropology. After spending some time on Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, this was the perfect way to apply learned information.

Our students learned various aspects of museum and artifact handling for this week’s lesson. Students were broken up into groups and each student was to act as a curator for their individual artifact.

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Here is Sally helping a student identify a conch shell.

In order to become curators, students filled out a notecard to go alongside their artifact. The students had to identify material, color, size, place of origin (if possible), and a description for their artifact.

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Here are a group of students examining their individual artifacts.

The purpose of filling out the descriptive cards is two-fold. For one, those who are viewing the artifact are able to take note of quantitative and descriptive details of the item. For instance, they are able to see if the item is a ceramic, shell, or stone type item. One the other hand, the descriptive cards are essential for those who cannot see the artifact in person. The card is a way to paint a picture of the item without necessarily having to have it right in front of you. These cards are great for people who are conducting research in the field. Typically, research requires you to go and look at various entities first hand (usually in museums or collections all across the country). These cards help researchers make a decision whether or not these items are what they need to conduct their research.

The students concluded their lesson by putting their items on display and turning the classroom into a museum. This exercise emphasized the importance of detail that anthropologists must have when documenting artifacts as they travel from their original site all the way to a collection.

Stay tuned for next week’s session!