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

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.

Culture and Clans – TMSE

WEEK 1: Cultures and Clans

By Annakate Faulk

Last week we started our outreach program at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School. This semester I and fellow UA students are working with an awesome group of third grade students whom we will be teaching about the anthropology of West Africa. Our first day went great! We were welcomed to the school by all of the students who had assembled in the gymnasium, I was definitely surprised by how many different outreach groups there were involved with the program. Once each of the outreach classes were dismissed we moved into our home for the semester, Mr. Little’s classroom. Each of the students had the opportunity to tell us why they had chosen to take the anthropology course, with the majority response being “because we get to eat bugs!” I do have to admit, I was glad to see the students so excited about this, because I was a little bit nervous.

The topic for this past week’s lesson was clans and their respective cultures. A clan is a group of individuals who identify with one another based on a commonly shared ancestor. As well as sharing this common ancestor, members of a clan follow a generalized set of customs and rules which are designated by their shared culture.

Once I had explained what these things were to the class, we broke up the students into groups of three and four which would become their clans. Each clan also included one or two members who were fellow anthropology students from UA.

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The students were then able to make some of the important choices regarding their clans such as their name, the ancestor which they all shared and things such as whether or not they would have a set leader or choose to be an egalitarian group.

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Each of the groups seemed to really enjoy the process of making these decisions and after a little bit of guidance from the UA students the choices were made with ease {mostly}.

There were a few bumps in the road, I will admit, but they were to be expected on our first day with these students. Our class split into three separate clans, two who chose to elect a leader and with the remaining group deciding to remain as equals.

Overall, even with the few stumbles and difficulties I think that this first week’s lesson went extremely well. Each UA student did an excellent job within their clans and were able to remain approachable to the students while also maintaining the demeanor of a successful supervisor and instructor by answering any questions the students had and keeping the student’s initial decision making a productive and streamlined process.

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Becoming Ethnographers

Hello everybody,

The next several posts will include the lesson plans we used for the UA partnership with the Tuscaloosa Magnet School. This semester the classes were taught by Taylor Burbach, Meghan Steel, and Erica Schumann, with the direction of graduate student Greg Batchelder. Enjoy!

Week 2: Cultural Anthropology and EthnographyWP_20140923_004

Activity: Becoming Ethnographers

Discussion: How do we study culture?

  1. Review
    1. What is culture?
    2. Why is it important?
  2. Why and how do we study other cultures?
    1. Cultural Anthropology: the branch of anthropology that studies modern humans
    2. Ethnography: the way that anthropologists study and teach others about cultures
  3. Do we always understand other people’s cultures?

Independent practice:

Students will divide into clans. Each clan will select informants and 1 ethnographer per group for each group, and then send that ethnographer out to observe another clan’s culture using the Ethnographer’s Guide.

After interviewing other clans, students will tell us what they learned about each clan.

Clan defense to discuss errors of interpretation.

Review:

How do anthropologists learn about culture?

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. Since anthropologists only work with the cultures they study for a limited amount of time, it is impossible to learn everything there is to know. However, anthropologists can learn about culture by understanding why people do the things that they do. We can also look at how culture change over time, because we know that it does change relative to a number of factors.

Possible topics:

What are some factors that may cause culture to change?

Do we automatically understand someone else’s culture?

What makes it hard to get it right?

Would an informant ever misdirect an ethnographer? If so, why?

When conducting ethnography, what is important for making make sure that your interpretation is correct? (good questions, good informants, coming at with an open mind, etc.)

Comparison of clans: Which were the most alike? Which were different?

Museum Anthropology

Dr. Chris Discussing Museum Displays

As we told the kids today, anthropology is like a great pair of glasses for seeing things about the world that are otherwise fuzzy. Today our intrepid anthropologists climbed out of their midden piles (that’s trash heap for you folks in the audience) to help clarify what they’re doing there in the first place. They are interpreting the cultural significance (hey, isn’t that a vocabulary word this week?) of these precious artifacts to help us understand the cultures of the peoples who left them behind. Since “culture” is shared, learned behavior, our young researchers analyzed the material remains to try to understand what behaviors the people who left it behind may have shared with each other and with us. What did they eat? Where did they live? What language(s) did they speak? How did THEY learn? And to help US understand what their anthropological lenses are revealing, our investigators are creating archaeological museum exhibits and educational talks that will interpret the stories their artifacts tell about the cultures that left them and maybe even re-enacting them for us! We are negotiating with the TMSE library curator to acquisition these valuable cultural exhibits for a showing in the library upon completion next week.

Telling a story from midden archaeology (i.e., what can garbage tell us about a culture?).