Parents Night and the Final Day at Arcadia

Last day of Anthropology is Elementary 2015

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We did not have an official lesson for the last day. Instead, we had an overview of the semester and discussed key aspects of anthropology learned.

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Ending thoughts

Thank you to the parents, faculty, and students at Arcadia Elementary. We had an amazing time.

This semester entailed weekly 45 minute sessions with rotating lesson plans that focused on a specific aspect of anthropology: cultural, linguistics, physical, and archaeology.

The program combined lecture based learning and lab setting activities to facilitate retention of material.

The semester was overseen by my professor and another PhD student, but individual lectures were designed and taught by myself (a graduate student enrolled in a class focusing on developing detailed lesson plans, plan creative academic exercises, and see plan to completion).

The program was designed to expand children’s worldview, therefore lessons were adapted to couple anthropological aspects of Alabama with international culture that the students likely have no prior knowledge of. This year we focused on West Africa.

Parents Night

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For parents that requested the recipes:

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Body Adornment at Arcadia

Week 9: Body Adornment

Lecture

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.03 PMBody Adornment is “Decorating your body to show your social status, to express your individuality, as a rite of passage, or to chow your membership to a group like a clan or community.”

There are many different forms of body adornment. Body adornment is what you wear or how you cut and style your hair. It is also piercing your body, or tattooing your body or doing body paint.

All forms of body adornment aim to make the wearer look more attractive, show individuality, and represent status.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.12 PMHair:

The people of West Africa often intricately braid their hair. In other cultures, covering your hair shows respect for  the wearer’s religion. In our culture, dying your hair is a fun way to express your individuality. In many cultures cutting your hair is an important ritual.

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Piercings:

In Africa some women add discs to their lower lips, because it is considered beautiful in their culture. In India women wear elaborate pierces with tassels and jewels attached. Here in America we tend to pierce our ears.Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.37 PM

Tattoos:

People all over the world tattoo their bodies and they mean different things to every culture. The oldest forms of tattooing come from the pacific islands, called Maori tattoos. These tattoos are status symbols. People with more money and power have more tattoos. Both men and women get tattoos. They are also seen as a sign of strength because they are done by inserting dye into the skin by hammering a sharpened stick into the skin to create the design. They are typically spirals that cover large portions of the face and body. Similarly, in West Africa tattoos are done to show status and are one the face and hands. Tattoos in America were traditionally for sailors or prison inmates, but today they are another fun way to express your individuality and unique character.Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.42.27 PM

Body Art:

Body art or body paint is another form of body adornment. It is not permanent and is done in most cultures at special times of celebration. In West Africa, men wear body paint in ritualistic settings and prior to war. In America, women wear make-up on a regular basis to enhance their natural beauty.

Activity:

Clans designed tattoos that symbolized importance in their culture, rites of passage, or individuality. Next, tattoos were pained on to students faces.

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Ending Thoughts:

Students absolutely loved this activity! They were enthralled, entertained, and had great discussions about what each symbol meant. As this was our last lecture, I wanted to leave the students with a fun activity they would remember all year.

Food at Arcadia

Week 8: Food

Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body.

Cuisine is about the style of cooking the food.

There are two distinct categories that all foods fit into – junk (or processed) foods and healthy foods.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.27.34 PMProcessed foods are foods that are prepared in mass numbers at factories to make it easier to make and eat meals. These include sodas, cookies, and chips.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.28.21 PMHealthy foods are food prepared in a kitchen for individual consumption. They include fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and beans.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.30.18 PMAnthropologists study food because it tells us a great deal about the people in a culture. The level of technology people have, the types of environment people live in, and the level of nutrition and health are all things that can be better understood by studying the food of a culture.

Pictured are traditional meals from West Africa, including squash stew and cooked bananas with beans. Students tried several dishes indigenous to the area.

 

Activity 1:

Each student group will free list for two minutes all the foods that they can think of, no matter the type. Then the students will take these foods and place them in different categories, such as good and junk food. Students were asked why they put these foods into different categories and discuss why each person may have different conceptions of what is good/junk food or what meal a food belongs in.

Students were very competent and realized that “chicken” or “potatoes” could be considered healthy or unhealthy, depending on how it was prepared. A student noted chicken breast cooked in olive oil is nutritious, while chicken wings dipped in buffalo sauce is not. Tea also ended up in the ‘middle’, because hot tea without sugar or milk is very healthy, but sweet tea is full of sugar.

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Activity 2:

Students ate cuisine from West Africa, prepared by Anna. Some recipes were modified, however, to not include peanut oil. The students ate:

• Sweet Potato Fritters

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• Banana Fritters

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• Fresh mango

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• Crickets (again)

I was happy every student tasted all four items available. No one in the class had eaten mango or sweet potatoes before (as far as they were aware). One student asked us to show a picture of a whole mango so that she could ask her mother to purchase one next time they went grocery shopping.

Ending thoughts:

During the first activity, most of the students noted they ate lots of processed foods and most of their meals were cooked in fatty oils or excessive amounts of butter. In deliberately choosing dishes popular in West Africa, we were able to expose students to cuisine outside of the traditional regional staples.

Museums at Arcadia

Week 7: Museums

Lecture

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A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and artistic, cultural, historical, or scientifically important items. They make these items available for public viewing through exhibits.

Some of the most attended museums include the Louvre in Paris, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There are many types of museums, including art museums, natural history museums, science museums, war museums, and children’s museums.  Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 4.26.23 PMMuseums have many different things on display, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, clothing, historical documents, and fossils.

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Anthropologists are interested the preservation of artifacts and the ability for them to be displayed for public viewing.

 

Activity

Each clan received one supply box in which to create their own exhibit. The art was created out colored paper, glue, tape, costumes, and other craft supplies. They named their exhibit and displayed all of their items. They then explained their exhibit to others.

 

Ending thoughts

IMG_6745This past week at Arcadia, the students became museum curators. Specifically, the Swimming Cheetahs became curators of the clothing and accessories worn by our clan throughout our long and fascinating history. Generous costume donations from the UA Theatre Department provided us with many options for expression.

To begin, we chose one person who would dress up as part of our exhibit. To make this rather difficult decision, we played the who’s-closest-to-my-number game, which will generally solve many of life’s most complicated questions. Our winner was chosen after she mysteriously guessed the number three, which was the exact number that had been chosen. Next, a blind vote led to the decision that this person would dress as royalty. Interestingly, it was a close vote with two votes for “everyday person” and three votes for “royalty.” IMG_6748

After these important decisions had been made, we decided on the hat, robe, and hair-feathers fit for our queen. This took nearly two minutes, so we decided that we should all dress as royal Swimming Cheetahs in the time remaining. The students had free range with their choices in dress.

To have the students think through the experience of curating a clothing exhibit, I asked them to place their style of dress (and themselves) in chronological order. Here’s what we came up with:

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We talked about why changes in dress may have occurred. Why did the king’s hat style change? Why did the queen’s robe change? How and why did the queen, formerly known as the Queen, become the Christmas Queen? Turns out, the Swimming Cheetahs really love Christmas. IMG_6753

I encouraged the students to “freeze” like statues. Juliann and I then “visited” the museum exhibit, stopping by each student while s/he explained where s/he fit in the history of royal Swimming Cheetah dress. Overall, it was a great exercise in museum design, and the students (and their instructor) enjoyed dressing as royalty.

  • Written by Anna Bianchi

The group assigned to me was tasked with building a model house replicating one, which might be found in a museum.  The group began by discussing what elements should be a part of the model.  The students decided that a roof and an outline of the floor were firsIMG_6755t priority and divided themselves based on what they wanted to create.  Two students built the floor plan on a foam pad using craft sticks, while two others began a roof using craft sticks and construction paper.  IMG_6756Those students who did not have a specific int-
erest worked with Robert to build a covered patio model from craft sticks, pipe cleaners and tape.  Students were encouraged to work cooperatively and share information between task groups so as to produce a cohesive final project. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented the project from being completed.  Nevertheless, the students displayed great enthusiasm throughout the activity and appeared to thoroughly enjoy it.

  • Written by Robert Templin

 

IMG_6752My group made headdresses. They really liked putting antenna-like appendages on their headdresses, and one of the boys decided to use streamers to make himself look like a squid.

The kids had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the activity.

  • Written by Larry MonocelloIMG_6757

Evolution at Arcadia

Week 6: Evolution

Lecture

Evolution is descent with modification, which consists of slow change in species over many generations

Natural selection is the survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype

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Mutation is a change in the DNA that can be passed down to the individual’s children

Genetic drift is random change in the frequencies of genetic variation, which causes change in a population but does not produce adaptations

Gene flow is the migration of a population and their genetic information to another place

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Anthropologists study evolution of humans and their closest relatives as well as cultural evolution. We are mainly interested in human evolution and that of our relatives.


Activity 1: Mutation Telephone

Starting with the instructor, a simple message sent through the line. There will be significant change in the message as it is passed along. This change happened from an accumulation of small mistakes the students made, much like mutations happen in DNA. Eventually, after enough time passes, those small mistakes add up to be large adaptations. These adaptations can even create new species that do not resemble the original species if enough mutations happen.

The first round of the game I said: “We love Halloween at Arcadia” and after being repeated 20 times, it ended as “We aren’t awkward”.

The second round of the game I said: “I am very excited for Thanksgiving break” and after being repeated 20 times, the sentence was basically inaudible, but close to “I want to shhhhhh”.


Activity 2: Adaptive Monsters

Students got ready for Halloween by making monsters! The students could create any kind of monster they wanted, but they had to be adapted for a certain landscape (Tundra, Jungle, and Under the Sea).

The students determined some important adaptations for each environment – 

Tundra: The ability to pick up short grass, ability to walk on hard ground for long periods of time, and ability to withstand cold weather

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[Clan leader creation]

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[This monster has wings to fly, claws to rip prey apart, spikes to shoot prey, and a thick coat to stay warm.]

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[This monster has large teeth to eat and defend with, a large tail that smashes through the rough ground, and multiple layers of fur to stay warm.]

Jungle: The ability to climb, tails to maintain balance and run through trees, and nocturnal site.

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[Clan leader creation]

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[This monster has a long tail for balancing, multiple legs to run fast, and many snake heads to defend itself.]

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[This monster grows bananas and throws them in defense. It is able to attract its prey by DJing on its record player.]

Under the Sea: Gills to breathe, large teeth to eat and defend, tails or fins to move

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[Clan leader creation]

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[This monster is able to glow in the dark. It moves throughout the water using tentacles. It has large teeth to destroy its prey.]

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[This monster can electrocute others with its tentacles. It has many, many eyes that helps it see in the dark.]


Ending Thoughts

The students really enjoyed both activities. After completing “Mutation Telephone”, I went through the circle to determine where mistakes (or ‘mutations’) had been made. Students giggled as they confessed they couldn’t hear the person in front of them, so they just mumbled something instead. I pointed out that if evolution, these mutations happen over millions of years, and are passed down from generation to generation; until there is a different species entirely.

I was pleased with how intuitive and smart the children’s monsters were. They took time to understand their assigned landscape and put great effort into designing a species that would be adapted for the unique challenges it would face. Those who were preparing to live in a tundra all designed monsters with thick, heavy coats of fur. Every monster who had to survive living in the sea had gills to breathe. They also had tails, tentacles, or fins to allow them to move under water. The jungle monsters had claws to climb up trees and long tails to stabilize them.

Teaching evolution is challenging in any setting, but especially to young students… and especially in the south. Due to inadequate education standards, students receive poor evolution education here. Evolution is described as “only a theory”, with no further explanation that scientific theories are fact. Because of this, I was extremely nervous about presenting the lecture. I was concerned the students would have no previous understanding of the concept – or even been told evolution is a lie.

I am pleased to say I was completely wrong! Multiple students knew that evolution meant “change over time” before I began. Those who did not seemed to really grasp the basics of micro-evolution after the mutation game. I was even more impressed with how appropriately adapted the monsters were to their specific landscapes. Students asked cunning questions about why certain species are better adapted for certain environments, then others. It gave me an excellent opportunity to discuss macro-evolution.

Primates at Arcadia

 

Week 5: Primates

Lecture

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Primates are any member of the group of animals that includes human beings, apes, and monkeys.

Apes are closely related to monkeys and humans, they are covered in hair and have no tail or a very short tail.

Monkeys are smaller, with tails. Some are prehensile and some are not.

There are two groups of monkeys:

Old World monkeys: baboons, macaques, colobus monkeys, among others

New World monkeys: spider monkeys, marmosets, howler monkeys, among others
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Most primates live in small groups. There are advantages to living in a group, including increased protection, shared parenting, and shared food supply.

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There are three main diets: carnivore (only eats meat), omnivore (eats meats and plants), and herbivore (eats only plants). Most primates eat fruits, which are high in energy, leaves, which are nutritious, and then some other foods they can find (like crickets!)

Activity 1

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Students play the meddling monkey scavenger hunt. This game

replicates the choices that primates make with regard to food

security, group safety, and survival. Students will be separated

into groups (each a different primate species) with a set number

of primate infants per group. The objective is to gather as many

calories as possible while protecting the infants in your group.

Scavenger hunt supplies:

  • Construction paper fruit (yellow and red) Value:  5 points
  • Construction paper leaves/stems (green) Value: 1 point
  • Construction paper insects (ants, grubs, and protein) Value: 3 points
  • Construction paper primate infants. Value: 10 points

Game Rules: 

  • Search the “forest” (classroom) to find as many calories as you can and bring them back to the troop.
  • Primates can only carry one food item since they are not bipedal.
  • Students can steal food that is unguarded. They can also steal unguarded infant primates.
  • To be protected from stealing food or infants, two people must be at the “home base.”
  • One person is not enough to protect it.
  • However, student groups can choose to leave as few or as many people at the nest as they wish.
  • At the end of the time, groups will reunite and scores will be added up.
  • A group automatically loses if all of their infants are stolen.

Videos of primate activity: Arcadia & arcadia2

 

Activity 2

EATING CRICKETS AND MEAL WORMS!!! Store bought insects were given to students who wanted to try them. Every single student did!

Video of students eating crickets and meal worms: Arcadia3

Ending Thoughts

I was so proud of my students for being so willing to try the crickets and meal worms. Several students mentioned they took this partnership class simply because they heard about this activity. Students in other classes found out we had these ‘snacks’ and joined in the activity! I hope this results in an even larger class next semester.

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Landscapes at Arcadia

Week 4: Landscapes

Lecture

Cultural landscapes are created by people’s interaction with the world around them. These landscapes provide a sense of place and identity, they map our relationship with the land over time, and they are part of our national heritage and each of our lives.

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West Africa has many important landscapes. For example, Sukur is ancient settlement with a history of iron technology, wide-spread trade, and a vast political system. The landscape is characterized by terraces on the farmlands, dry stone structures and stone paved walkways. The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali represents more than just a religion temple. It is the center of the entire city and is where the people of Mali congregate to eat, shop, and build community.

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Activity

The students broke off into their clans and each studied a different area in West Africa. They focused on major cultural landscapes. The information was then complied and turned into brochures.

The “Burger Spiders” focused on Gambia

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The “Swimming Cheetahs” focused on Sierra Leone

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The “Lions” focused on Liberia 

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Ending Thoughts

Unfortunately, the internet was down at the school during our session this week, therefore the research had to be completed on the assistants’ phones. This caused the research to mostly be done individually, instead of as a whole group. Despite this small technical issue, the students still seemed to learn a great deal about their country. After completing research individually, the whole class came together and discussed their favorite landscapes discovered. Students’ answers listed below:

COUNTRY:                NATURAL  –     FEATURE    –     OTHER LANDSCAPE

GAMBIA                    Hippos                Gambia River       Stone Circle

SIERRA LEONE      Rainforests         The Moa River     Supreme Court Building

LIBERIA                   Guinean Forest   Mt. Wuteve          University of Liberia

Archaeology at Arcadia

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Week 3: Archaeology

Lecture

Archaeology is the branch of anthropology that studies humans who lived in the past through their material remains. They dig for human bones and material culture. (Students were very disappointed to find out archaeologists do NOT dig for dinosaurs.) Artifacts are anything made or changed by humans. By studying artifacts, we can reconstruct different aspects of culture and learn about the lives of humans in the past.

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Excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. When archaeological finds are discovered, the identification of the context of each find is vital to enable the archaeologist to make conclusions about the people who inhabited the site and the date of its occupation.

There are two main problems that occur while digging: Under and over cutting. Under-cutting occurs where contexts are not excavated fully and some remainder of the context is left. Over-cutting occurs when contexts are unintentionally removed along with material from other deposits and contexts.

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In Tuscaloosa, we are just 30 minutes away from Moundville, so many of the students in this partnership have actually already been exposed to an archaeological site. At Moundville, archaeologists study Native American culture, especially pottery, stonework, and copper.

In Timbuktu, local archaeologists are focused on locating and preserving 16th century Arabic manuscripts from mosques, private homes, and universities.

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Activity – Cookie Excavation

Materials required per student:

1 m&m cookie

1 toothpick

1 paper towel

Procedures:

• Pass out materials to each student

• Explain to the students that they are archaeologists who have been hired to excavate artifacts (m&m pieces from the cookies)

• They must keep their m&ms intact to the best of their ability

• Stop the class after a few minutes to see who was able to complete activity without fragmenting chips

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Ending thoughts

Through this activity, students demonstrated the process of excavating artifacts. They were encouraged to not to over-cut, because they could potentially ruin another artifact. The students were very intuitive and understood that if an artifact is mishandled by a researcher, it cannot be salvaged after; meaning that piece of culture is potentially lost forever.

After the activity was completed, I asked students “Now that you are an archaeologist who completed their first dig, what would you tell a new archaeologist? What is important for archaeologists to remember?” One student gave the most poignant answer I could think of… She said “Take your time, don’t rush, and be patient.” I think she absolutely nailed it! (A sticker was awarded, because as I stated last week, kids love stickers.)

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The students really enjoyed this activity, especially because they got to eat a cookie at school! I would recommend cookie excavation to elementary school teachers doing archaeology.

Ethnography at Arcadia

Ethnography

Week 2: Ethnography

Lecture

Ethnography is the way that anthropologists study and teach others about cultures. Anthropologists learn about cultures by engaging different groups of people, asking questions, writing down their answers, and then thinking about the best way to understand behavior.

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Cultural anthropologists use an emic perspective when studying another group, meaning they describe a particular culture in terms of its internal elements.

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The focus of this semester is West Africa, and this week our lecture was about Benin. Students were intrigued that the people of Benin snack on bush rats! They also bonded over a love of soccer.

Activity

Last week students were broken into three clans. Each clan chose a name, selected a language, and determined a social structure. They even designed a flag. 

This week each clan selected 1 ethnographer per group, and then sent that ethnographer out to observe another clan’s culture using the Ethnographer’s Guide.

After interviewing other clans, told us what they learned about the new culture.

Lastly, the clan defended errors of interpretation.

Ending thoughts

I am lucky enough to have three amazing teaching assistants, who each govern a separate clan. They manage the students productivity and limit their rowdiness. (A task I can not be more grateful to not be handling alone.) They helped the clan select an ethnographer to travel to another group. Surprisingly, we had multiple students volunteer. I was giddy over the level of participation. All students were interactive as the ethnographer completed the survey. The TAs helped narrow the clan members answers, but every one seemed engaged for the length of the activity. When the ethnographers presented to the class, they were confident and demonstrated they had grasped the concept. I was very proud of these three students. (I rewarded them with lots of stickers to show my gratitude. Amazing what an 11 year old will do for a sticker!) In my opinion, this activity was a success. Although, I was unable to gauge if the students answering the questions understood ethnography as well as I could with the anthropologists.