Cultural Anthropology Activities for High School

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

These activities will help you to introduce your students to the goals, methods, and basic ideas of cultural anthropology. Each activity is designed to be adaptable to fit the needs of your specific classroom.

Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology is not a subject that all students are exposed to in high school, so this is likely to be a new area of exploration for your class. These activities are designed to help introduce high school students to the basic concepts, goals, and methods of cultural anthropology, and to give them ways to practice these in creative, in-class exercises.

Cultural Anthropology Activities

Report on a Fictional Culture

Anthropologists often spend time living among a culture in order to learn about it. Your students will practice this by writing a series of reports from the perspective of an anthropologist living in a fictional culture.

This activity can be done by students independently or in small groups. Start by giving each student or group a simple prompt that describes the basic features of a culture, including an idea of the climate and resources. Students will use this as the starting point and build up their fictional culture. They will then write a series of reports as the anthropologist studying this culture. Ask students to think about the elements of culture and the sorts of things that an anthropologist might be interested in.

  • Materials: Culture prompts, writing supplies

Study Your Culture

For this activity, students will examine their own culture from an outsider's perspective. Divide the class into small groups, and tell them to assume the identities of anthropologists from another culture. Next, assign each group an element of culture to explore (kinship, rituals, myths, social behaviors, etc.). In their groups, students will try and describe this element of their own culture as an outsider might perceive it.

This activity can be implemented in a number of ways. In the simplest, and least time-consuming, students will discuss this element of culture in their groups and each group will then present to the class. If you have more time, let groups conduct fieldwork by observing their fellow students throughout the school and conducting interviews. After field research has been conducted, have each group present to the class as if this were an anthropology conference.

  • Materials: Writing supplies as needed

Myths and Legends

Divide the class into small groups, and give each a myth or legend from a different culture, as well as a brief explanation about that culture. In their groups, students will read through this myth or legend and discuss what it means and what it can tell us about the culture that created it. Once they are ready, each group will present their myth/legend and analysis to the class.

  • Materials: Several myths and legends from world cultures

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