Cultural Anthropology Week 14: Field Trip!

May 21st, 2015

Ever since a student joked that we should go to the San Diego Museum of Man as a class, Week 14 was going to be special. In addition to the trip, the day also marks the end of the poster project that was started after spring break. The plan was simple: we will have the team poster session at the start of class and then go to the museum for a few hours.

Well, plans have had a way of not working out like I had imagined. The first issue, which was the result of last week’s lack of work during poster work time, was that only one poster arrived in class completely done. Another was brought to class unassembled and the third was missing in action. In my design for the project, the poster was supposed to be finished the week before, but none of the teams got that impression. For next time, I will emphasize that the poster is due before the presentation. I may have the posters turned in to me the week before, at least for a graded inspection, for example.

The second issue was that it was another rainy day in San Diego. As a result, many students missed the start of class due to traffic. (The freeways get packed at the slightest hint of rain). As we waited for more people to show up and for the second team to glue their text to the poster, I talked with the team that had their poster done. I did earn a lot of professor points as, right after a student joked that we should get breakfast on the way to the museum, I revealed that I brought mini cupcakes for the class.

When poster two was done, I started the presentations. The team with the newly-minted poster elected to go first. I had the other students gather around as the team went over what they found out about the culture they researched (the Basque of France and Spain). After their summary I tested their ability to think on their feet by asking a few light questions about their research. We then went to the next poster and heard their talk on the Ainu. Their poster had an interesting cyan color scheme, which I was told was due to the printer running out of ink!

At that point, the third team received a call from their missing teammate, who had the poster. It turned out that the student was hurriedly printing out the material at the library. Since it was time to leave for the museum I told the third team to have the poster ready for the next class.

It is school policy that I have nothing to do with field trip transportation so I drove to the Museum of Man alone. The rain had turned into a drizzle by then. Even on a rainy morning, Balboa Park, where that museum was located was packed with cars. By the time I found parking in one of the farther lots, most of the students were already at the museum. I handed out their extra credit assignment and they were off.

{ Museum of Man panorama. }

{ Museum of Man panorama… Museum of Manorama.}

Oh, right, the assignment. I made two assignments for the museum trip: a serious one about the Race: Are We So Different exhibit, and also a fun photo scavenger hunt for the rest of the museum. I had gone to the museum on a free Tuesday a few weeks ago to find inspiration for clues and wrote them up this past week. The task is for students to photograph what each clue was referring to, then upload the photo to a wiki page on Blackboard. The scavenger hunt was collaborative, so everyone gets all of the points for each clue that was correctly solved. You can download the assignment for your own purposes here!

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{ Life-sized Gigantopithecus! }

The students went off to see the museum, clue sheets in hand. To my surprise, most of them moved in a pack. Since the team concept did not seem to take hold, most recently evidenced by the poster project, I expected the students to wander off on their own. For a while I stuck around near the entrance to wait for more students, but after a while, I went off on my own. I passed the pack of students a few times. After a while, at their urging, I went along with the pack. It was fun to see them try to figure out the clues as they went, and I did see the museum recently so there was not much for me to do on my own.

{ Statue of a garuda from Bali. My mention of Bali in every lecture became a running joke. }

{ Statue of a garuda from Bali. My mention of Bali in every lecture became a running joke. }

A few of the students paid extra to see the Instruments of Torture exhibit. I had never seen it, so I got a ticket as well. It was interesting and disturbing to see all of these torture implements and read about how they were used. It is astounding how the people in power invested so much in creative ways to injure and publicly humiliate in the Renaissance and colonial times. My favorite torture museum is still the Museo de la Inquisición in Lima, though, since the museum is actually in a location where they tortured people.

After seeing that exhibit, a few students cashed in their coffee drawing winnings. Over bubble tea and pho, we talked about our own experiences at the school and how the class went. I learned a lot about their lives away from school, the other seven times twenty-four, minus three hours of their lives. With lunch wrapped up and the sun shining, it was time to call the field trip a success.

Next week is the last class session before the final exam. On the agenda is the third poster, and a final lecture which will review everything we have learned about cultural anthropology. Sometime I will also have to work out what to do for the participation and attendance grades. It is pretty exciting that the semester is coming to a close! See you after class.


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