Anthropology Activities

Cemeteries are excellent historical and anthropological sources.

Anthropology is a social science that studies human origins and social relationships. These anthropological activities are designed to help provide a better understanding of social customs, human origins, and social and cultural behavior. Whether you're studying anthropology in grade school or in college, or are just interested in the topic, these activities will help students or other participants gain a deeper insight and appreciation for the anthropological aspects of your community, country or family. Geared for older students, these activities are challenging, but can be performed with little to no cost.

1 Historic Cemetery

For this activity, which is designed for adults or older teenagers, you will need to have access to a historic or old cemetery. Most communities contain at least one cemetery that has been used for a long time. When your group arrives at the cemetery, spend about 15 to 30 minutes walking around the cemetery, paying particular attention to fences, paths, buildings and landscaping. Identify the cemetery's boundaries and make note as to how they are marked. Identify the oldest and most recent tombstones and compare their styles and content. This activity will help students see how society's views of death have changed over the years, as is reflected in the layout of the grounds, the types of grave markers used, and other aspects that reflect societal beliefs or customs.

2 Get the Word Out

Designed for students in grades 6 to 8, this activity requires a teacher to prepare a worksheet of common words that are used in our society that have been invented or borrowed from other languages along with their meanings. These types of worksheets are also available online. For example, "vamoose" is an Americanized word that derives from the Spanish phrase for "let's go."

Place the words in one column and their meanings in the other, but in random order, so that students will be required to match them up. Divide the students into teams and provide each team with a worksheet. Instruct the students to first go through the list to see if they can identify any of the matches on their own, then ask them to conduct research using library or Internet resources to figure out the rest of the words. The objective of this activity is to help students understand where the words they use originated.

3 Crowd Watching

Watching how people interact is a good method for studying the anthropological aspects of modern society. For this activity, designed for grades 6 to 12, plan to spend some time observing people in a crowded place, such as an airport, supermarket or sporting event. Ask students to take notes on whether people are cooperative with each other, if they are concerned about their own interests, and if they act differently in certain situations.

After your students have watched the crowd, take time for them to answer the following questions: Why do people go to the location you observed? What is their objective? How do people who are there individually act differently from those who are there with a group? In what ways did you observe people helping or interfering with each other? If people need to wait for something, do they stand in line or move around? How do the people communicate with each other?

4 Mother-Infant Observation

This activity, designed for older teenagers and adults, may be performed in a formal classroom setting or in an informal personal setting. In either situation, you will have to invite a mother with her infant, 10 months to 2 years old, who agree to be the subjects of observation. The objective of this lesson is to provide a background for human primate behavior, social relations and communication.

During the observation, observers or students should pay attention to the physical characteristics of the mother and infant, what they do, how they communicate, how much time they spend interacting, and who initiates any interaction between them. Following the observation, ask students to write a brief summary listing adjectives that best describe the mother and infant. Ask them to include whether they enjoyed the observation or not, and why.

Lou Martin has been writing professionally since 1992. His work has appeared in the "Los Angeles Times," the "Long Beach Press-Telegram" and the "Deseret Morning News." Martin holds a Bachelor of Science in history and communication.