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.

Archaeology of West Africa – TMSE

By Rob Barlow

For the third week of the Anthropology Outreach Program at TMSE, Annakate and I taught a class on the archaeology of West Africa. Archaeology is a passion for both of us and we were eager to instruct on a topic we care so much about. Our shared goal was to make sure that we really informed the class about archaeology and why it is a vital part of anthropology. Archaeology is important because it can tell us much about past cultures that we don’t have the ability to observe, and we do this by by analyzing their material remains.

The students were engaging during the lecture part of the lesson and we thought that was wonderful. They had so many questions that we were actually taken aback by their eagerness. They were so intrigued that the lecture ended up taking much longer than intended, but, happily, it all worked out in the end. Throughout the lesson we made it a point to reiterate the selected vocabulary and by the end our students seemed to have a good grasp of these core concepts.

The students were also really into the part of the lesson that highlighted West Africa. This section of the lesson was led by Annakate and showcased artifacts from West Africa that were important to various cultures and their respective day to day lives. Some of these artifacts included tools for food preparation, canoes, and sculptures form different cultures. Finally, to segue to our garbology activity I explained what a midden is (archaeological trash deposit) and explained the garbology activity where the kids were to sort through the controlled (clean) garbage (artifacts) that we supplied them with and tell the story about the people it came from.

After the kids received the “artifacts” they began to sort them into groups by room and activity. Some of the most common groups included trash from a kitchen, office, baby room, bathroom, and even some trash from the upkeep of family pets. The kids all came up with great stories, but the one that impressed me the most came from the Clan of Zeus. They were able to come up with a story of a woman that was in her 30’s and attended Southern Mississippi University; she also had a baby later in her life.

One of our students examining some of the artifacts supplied to his clan
One of our students examining some of the artifacts supplied to his clan

 

As you can see, someone is a little excited about archaeology
As you can see, someone is a little       excited about archaeology

 

Our teacher is working hard with her clan to get their story together
Our teacher is working hard with her clan to get their story together

All in all the lecture and activity exceeded our expectations. The kids were engaged and really into sorting the garbage to tell the story. The great thing is that they will be revisiting this lesson next week when we talk about museums, in which the children will take their garbage and make an exhibit out of it and actually get to share with their parents the story they came up. We were thrilled with the outcome of the archaeology lesson and although we went a bit over with the lecture, it worked out fine because we finished as class was being dismissed.

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.