K-12 and Community Outreach Toolkit
The AAA encourages anthropologists and students to celebrate Anthropology Day by visiting local schools or holding events at community centers, public libraries, or other similar locations. Curious about how to arrange a presentation at a local school? Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Take advantage of existing connections. Does your school have a tutoring program at a local K-12 school? Maybe your education department has a student teaching program hosted by a nearby school. Start by exploring those connections to see if they can put you in touch with a social studies or science teacher who might be interested in featuring a guest speaker.
- Contact the school principal. A school does not need to have an existing anthropology curriculum in order for you to give a presentation there. Find the contact information for the principal of a school nearby and send them a message introducing yourself and asking if they would be willing to pass your information along to social studies or science teachers, or if they ever host guest speakers for school or grade-wide assemblies.
- Call or visit your local public library and ask about holding educational events.
The AAA staff celebrates Anthropology Day by giving presentations at local schools. Our presentation is largely driven by class participation. We begin by explaining that anthropology is the study of everything human and ask kids to give us examples of the kinds of things that might mean anthropologists study. We've had all kinds of answers to that question, ranging from pizza to video games to families, and the great thing is that we have examples of anthropologists who do work in relation to all of those things. We have a simple slideshow with a collection of images (last year's images included a photo from the Super Bowl, a photo of a self-driving car, an image from the TV show Bones, and a photo from a museum) that we display one at a time and use as a jumping off point to share all of the different kinds of careers that anthropologists can have.
Including a hands-on element in your presentation is also very effective! Here are some examples of stations that past Anthropology Day participants have done with young children:
Divide activities in rooms or tables:
- Room/Table 1
Showcase casts of fossil skulls and tools, as well as some modern ape and human skulls. Allow participants to handle the skulls and have prepared questions with answers they might be able to guess by looking at the skulls (ex. Which of these animals probably ate only fruits and vegetables? Which skull belongs to which picture? Which is most closely related to humans?) Develop a poster that provides basic information about prosimians, New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and apes as a reference tool to make it a little easier.
- Room/Table 2
Have participants at one table with popsicle sticks and one with clothespins where people can make a God’s eye and a worry doll (or a similar craft project connected to a cultural tradition). Provide associated handouts explaining the cultural function and meaning of the objects.
- Room/Table 3
Develop a mock archaeological dig set up in plastic tubs. Each tub can contain either soil (for little kids) or stratigraphy layers of sand and soil (for older kids). You can embed plastic coins, beads, and arrowheads in the soil. You can provide hand shovels, trowels and sifters for them to use.
Anthropology is the study of us.
Our clothes, our homes, our bones
How we talk, how we think,
Our past, present and future …
It’s All Anthropology!
About Anthropology: For Elementary School
- Anthropologists are everywhere! Anthropologists work in practically every environment and setting you can imagine.
- Anthropology teaches us to understand the backgrounds and experiences of people who are different from us.
- Anthropologists study everything that makes us human. The way we talk, the way we dress, how we live in our homes, what our bones say about us, it’s all anthropology!
- Anthropologists study all kinds of different things. There are anthropologists working on the development of driverless cars, anthropologists working for big companies like Google, anthropologists helping doctors find new ways to keep people from getting sick and so much more.
About Anthropology: For High School and Above
- An anthropology degree prepares students for excellent jobs and opens doors to many different career paths. Today’s anthropologists do not just work in exotic locations; they’re making remarkable contributions to human understanding and tackling the world’s most pressing problems.
- They design and evaluate user experiences for Google and GM products, implement protocols for Ebola outbreaks and run NGOs. Anthropologists work in sites, schools, museums, financial institutions or as forensic anthropologists in crime labs.
- Whatever the job title, anthropologists can change the way we view and interact with our world. Their fundamental understanding of the variation we see in human physiology and culture and their research and analytical skills lead to a wide variety of career options, ranging from the oddly fascinating to the routinely bureaucratic.
- Because of our work, lives are saved through better quality health and medicine, school systems are being improved, environmental resources are managed more effectively, heritage and languages are preserved, products and services we need are better designed, and a culture of innovation is better understood and managed.
Anthropology is Elemental: Teaching Four-Field Anthropology in Tuscaloosa Schools
In 2011 the Anthropology Department at The University of Alabama joined a larger university lead outreach initiative at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary. A collection of faculty, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates began offering a semester-long course in four-field Anthropology. Through their blog you can review lesson plans and activity suggestions for activities related to anthropological topics including race and evolution.
Archaeology in the Community
Archaeology in the Community is a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Alexandra Jones in 2009. Dr. Jones and her team partner with educational institutions, cultural establishments and community organizations to:
- Increase community awareness of the benefits of archaeology and history through public events.
- Provide archaeology enrichment programs to students of all ages.
- Provide professional development to college students interested in pursuing careers in archaeology.
- Develop, promote and implement archaeological programs.
The Archaeology in the Community website provides great resources for sharing archaeology with children and communities.
Anthropology and Race
Race is a great example of an issue where anthropology has a lot to contribute. As part of our Understanding Race initiative, AAA has assembled a lesson plan (designed for older students) for those looking to begin a conversation about race in the classroom. Additional resources can also be found on our Understanding Race page.
Anthropology and Climate Change
Climate change is another important topic that one can build an anthropological lesson plan around. AAA has a lengthy list of resources available on our Anthropology and Climate Change landing page, and AAA member Susie Crate has offered to assist schools interested in developing community programming to communicate more effectively about climate change.