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Anthropologists Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by the 2013 Executive Program Co-Chair, Alaka Wali.

We are looking forward to an exciting four days in Chicago and want to share with you a brand new initiative that will take place on the first morning of the meetings, Wednesday, November 20.

In keeping with the meeting theme of public engagement, the “Anthropologists Back to School” initiative offers meeting participants to directly engage with Chicago middle and high school students and teachers at local museums and university campus sites. The initiative is the brain-child of Johnnetta Cole, who challenged us to create an event that permitted the AAA to “give back” to the host city in a substantive way. The objective is to spark student and teacher awareness of our discipline and its diverse subject matters and perspectives.

We have worked in collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Social Science Department and the Education Department at The Field Museum to recruit teachers from the fifth grade to high school throughout Chicago. The teachers will register for the “field trips” to the host sites based on their interest in the subject matter. The CPS social science curriculum has a broad thematic approach, but currently does not include anthropology specifically. However, the CPS is making a major push to integrate “culture” into the current curriculum. Teachers will be interested in program that focus on such themes as: connections between past and present, the human-environment interface, human evolution, immigrant experiences, cultural diversity, language and culture, among others.

Here is how it will work:

  • Meeting participants will select and register for one of the host sites. We encourage you to work in teams, integrating across sub-disciplines if possible.
  • Participants can develop a program that is appropriate for their selected site and designed for students from fifth grade and up. At most sites, the program should be interactive rather than pedantic.
  • There will be logistical support at each site, but participants will be responsible for any instructional materials they wish to use and for their own travel to the host site. All the sites are within fairly close proximity to the meeting hotel.
  • The time frame for the program is about two-to-three hours (9 am–12 pm), but at most sites, about a half-hour program can be repeated as multiple student groups rotate through.
  • At the end of your program, we would like to have you report back on the experience.

The host sites are:

  • The Field Museum. There are seven anthropology exhibit halls where meeting participants can set up stations. Students will stop at the station and have the opportunity to interact with the anthropologists.
  • The Oriental Institute at The University of Chicago. There are four permanent halls and a temporary exhibition titled “Ancient Occupations, Modern Jobs.” Potentially there can be one-to-two stations in each of these halls. The permanent halls feature exhibits on Egypt, Assyria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.
  • The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago in Chinatown. This museum has a large meeting room and internet/projector capacity. Additionally, the exhibit halls feature stories of the Chinese immigrant experience in Chicago.
  • The National Hellenic Museum in Greek town. The museum has a large meeting room and projector capacity. Its exhibits feature both the Greek Immigrant experience and aspects of ancient and modern cultures of Greece.
  • Casa Michoacan in Pilsen. This cultural center for Chicagoans from the State of Michoaacan, Mexico, has a small gallery.
  • The South Side Community Art Center, on South Michigan Avenue. The oldest African-American art center in the United States has a main exhibit gallery. Its permanent collection includes works by many well-known Chicago artists.
  • The Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The center has a large auditorium space with a vibrant mural depicting the Latino experience in the United States.
  • The Anthropology Department at Loyola University. Professor Anne Grauer is designing a program focused on physical anthropology.
  • The Anthropology Museum at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. This site is about two hours from downtown Chicago, but has several interesting options.

Registration to participate in the Anthropologists Back to School program is limited. Register here.

Additionally, on Saturday, November 23, the Council on Anthropology and Education will hold multiple sessions and their annual award ceremony at The Field Museum. Local educators will be invited and will have the opportunity to interact with Council members.  We’d also like to note that the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges will establish a dialogue with Chicago Public Schools to develop pathways for high school students interested in pursuing anthropology in community colleges.

Dana-Ain Davis and Alaka Wali are the chairs of the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting. They may be contacted at 2013aaaprogramchairs@gmail.com

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