November 4, 2009

Donating Anthropology

Most of my freelance editing income goes into a PayPal account. When I discovered Etsy.com, I spent the majority of that extra income on the site, buying cute things for Chickpea and awesome bone-related stuff for myself. But then I found out that I could donate my PayPal balance at DonorsChoose.org. It's a cool site: teachers from all over the country post their needs (for specific projects, for equipment, for field trips), and people donate a little bit or a lot. Some of the projects have matching funds from local and national organizations. Thinking I could do some good rather than blowing my money on more stuff, I scanned the site for things related to anthropology and archaeology. A search for archaeology brings up 5 projects, and a search for anthropology brings up 4, two of which are for an LCD projector. That's an amazingly small number of projects considering how many have been posted (and fulfilled) on the site.

This experience makes me wonder if there is any kind of outreach going on to the K-12 set. My department does an annual Archaeology Day, and I think there's also an Anthropology Day. We often do mini-lectures and workshops through the planetarium on campus, which hosts weekend and summer programs for middle schoolers. I guess I just assumed that, since I was interested in anthropology as a middle schooler and since my department does a bit of outreach, that would filter down into the grade schools. I wonder if there are any sample curricula for grade school teachers, so they can impart an anthropological perspective in social studies, or do a miniature archaeological excavation project in science class, or study human or animal bones in biology. It would be really awesome to see anthropology brought to kids below the university level, to introduce the next generation to anthropology before they go off to college intent on being doctors/laywers/businesspeople and thinking that social sciences are useless. But it might also open up employment opportunities for anthropologists. If you think about it, academics with post-graduate degrees in other subjects can be licensed to teach the K-12 set: foreign languages, English, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, computer science, even psychology in some high schools. The fact that anthropology is never taught in the grade schools has always been surprising to me.

So I would encourage all the K-12 teachers out there to think about projects involving anthropology, and to reach out to their local anthropologist and/or to DonorsChoose. You don't really need a DNA sequencer or an LCD projector or an archaeology-in-a-box kit to teach kids anthropological methods. A few books and tools will go a long way, and I would love to donate them to you.

(For what it's worth, I ended up donating money to a classroom in NC that needs copies of the Iliad and the Odyssey. My other loves are, of course, books and classical culture, and too many schools have crappy books with only selections of ancient works rather than complete texts. Even if the kids are reading texts in translation, that's still cool with me.)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish my high school classes would at least mention anthropology. During my sophomore year (last year) multiple classes had more than a few opportunities to integrate a discussion of physical/biological anthropology. I find it sad that many people in my school have never heard the word anthropology before and some don't even know what archaeology is. Secondary education is devoid of any reference to anthropology which is terrible since many people don't see its value as a result. At least i get to start college in teh fall and will finally get to start studying this greatly interesting field. I have wanted to be an archaeologist since I was about four or five. i am so excited!

Kristina said...

I'm glad you're excited about studying anthropology in college and I hope that the school you've chosen has a good program. (If you haven't chosen, do your homework - different schools have strengths in different aspects of anthropology, and some departments are better than others at doing interdisciplinary research with other departments on campus, like bio, classics, chemistry, geology, etc.) You express yourself very well in writing (better than a lot of my undergrads), so I wish you well in school!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much! I have chosen already. I am going to attend the University of Maine. That said, my application is not submitted yet as I need to verify first quarter's grades before the university sees them, just to be safe. This was a financial decision more than anything else. If you would not mind, I would like to know what you think of their program. I intend on a double major in anthropology and biochemistry.

Kristina said...

I honestly hadn't heard anything about Maine's department, but it looks like their archaeologists are really into climate and geology - which is great if you'd be interested in, for example, looking at migration, diet, palaeoclimate, or other issues using stable isotope analysis of archaeological remains. I definitely wish I'd gotten more background in chemistry or geology as an undergraduate, as it would have been useful in interpreting my isotope analyses for my dissertation! Maine also has a forensic anthropologist and a bioarchaeologist, so it seems like it would be a great department for someone interested in archaeology, human anatomy, and biochemistry.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am not surprised that you have not heard of it. Maine is not really known for much and some people don't even know it is a state. I have meet people, while in other states, who think I live in Canada when i tell them where I am from, as they are under the impression that Maine is part of Canada.

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Nicole said...

refreshing blog to stumble upon. i have to say, i'd never even heard of anthropology until college. i decided to take cultural anthropology for my multicultural credit, not knowing really what anthropology was, but thinking it sounded, at least, not boring.

and then i fell in love. i've taken many various anthropology courses since, and the more i learn, the more i realize what i wasn't taught in high school. all the subfields of anthro strike me as so valuable, i'm disappointed to think of how many people miss the anthropological viewpoint because it's not taught to school children.

i remember, particularly, the moment i was sitting in biological anthro and realized, "oh my god, i finally understand evolution." before that i hadn't realized, perhaps couldn't have known, how seldom and vaguely it was discussed in high school.

i'm glad to hear about your work, as well. i think my heart is pulling me toward anthropology with a mighty force, and i often wonder what i will actually be able to do with an anthropology degree.

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