Free Online Teaching Resources for Anthropology

Posted in High School, History, Home School Creative Commons Resources, Humanities, Middle School on August 12, 2017 - by Deidre Rose

Teach anthropology to your kids for free with these valuable resources

Deidre Rose teaches anthropology at the University of Guelph. We’re so excited that she was willing to share these awesome online teaching resources with the homeschool community.

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of all aspects of humankind and spans across the globe and through time. Because of the massive scope of the discipline, it is generally divided into four subfields:

  • Biological or physical anthropology deals with the physical aspects of humans, primates, and our early ancestors;
  • Archaeology focuses on the material remains of past societies;
  • Linguistic anthropology investigates and analyses the acquisition and nature of language and communication;
  • and Social or cultural anthropology tends to focus on the societal and cultural lives of contemporary human beings.

In Canada, Anthropology is not usually offered until high school. Many of these resources aren’t exclusively geared toward anthropology, but would also be useful for the teaching ancient history, science, and social studies.

The Subfields of Anthropology

  1. Physical anthropology includes evolution, primatology (the study of nonhuman primates), forensic anthropology (as featured in the television series “Bones”), questions about modern human diversity (such as ideas about “race”), and the biological aspects of medical anthropology.
  2. Archaeology, as practiced and studied by anthropologists, is more concerned with the everyday lives of peoples from the near and ancient past, and sometimes examines the material culture of present-day peoples. In this way it is different from the archaeology of Egyptologists.
  3. Linguistic anthropology might investigate the connections of language families through time, the ways that language in society reflects ideas about the roles and value of men and women in a particular society, or the ways that different languages are structured (this is referred to as descriptive linguistics).
  4. Social or cultural anthropology is popularly understood to be primarily about the documentation, description, and analysis of cultures different from that of the anthropologist. Increasingly, social or cultural anthropologists are also interested in studying their own cultures. This branch of the discipline may look at cyberspace, online cultures and gaming, tourism, and popular culture as well as the more traditional ethnographies of foraging and tribal groups.

Free Online Anthropology Teaching Resources

The discipline has an extensive presence on the Internet and this article focuses only on a selection of material specifically intended for a younger audience. Professional Associations, Museums and Universities are good sources of free online material. For anthropologists in North America, the American Anthropological Association, The Smithsonian, The Canadian Museum of History, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia are prominent. Material from each of these is included below.

The American Anthropological Association

The American Anthropological Association is a valuable resource with many interesting and accessible resources including a searchable teaching materials exchange and links to a number of useful sites. Other offerings include:

RACE: Are We So Different? (Project materials for Middle and High School Teachers and families about teaching race and human variation)

The website features six resources specifically designed for children aged 8-11 and includes a short movie, a quiz related to sports, a feature called “A girl like me,” and other material appropriate for a younger audience.

World on the Move Another public education resource offered by the American Anthropological Association, World on the Move provides a wealth of educational material that address the migration of human populations over the span of 100,000 years. The initiative is an ongoing process with material being added periodically. Resources include online videos and another section features migration in the news.

Canadian Museum of History

Kichi Sibi: Tracing Our Region’s Ancient History is dedicated to the history of the Ottawa Valley region in Canada. An excellent resource for young students of archaeology. Also available in French and Spanish.

The Resource Centre allows users to search a vast collection of artifacts (photographic images of the museum’s collection) and an archival collection of documents.

The Gateway to Aboriginal Heritage project offers a wealth of resources related to the First Peoples of Canada and includes pages related to a number of famous anthropologists including Edward Sapir and Marius Barbeau. It also includes a number of Lesson Plans and Worksheets organized by Grade Level:

Grades K-4

Grades 5-8

Grades 9-12

Another exciting offering here allows visitors to view archaeological artifacts dating back as far as 5.000 years ago. The collections are organized by culture area or object type.

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian offers a searchable database with lesson plans and links to online artifacts. Of particular interest:

Smithsonian Department of Anthropology (teaching activities, teaching guides, and more)

Smithsonian Lesson Plans (lesson plans for promoting inquiry-based learning from preschool through high school and general audiences)

PreK-Grade 3

Objectivity A 55-minute lesson plan that invites pupils to examine artifacts and assess whether they were designed for practical purposes of survival or for enjoyment.

A Monumental Assignment Two to three 50-minute lessons inviting students to understand why monuments are built and to design a monument of their own.

Remember me Fondly Four 50-minute class periods where students are invited to examine the different ways that cultures memorialize events or people and then invites students to create their own commemorations relevant to their lives and interests. The lesson plans focus on cultures of Mexico and the United States.

Grades 4 – 8

Archaeology and Art Lesson plans for grades 6-12 classrooms, will need to be modified.

Human Evolution and Darwinism A comprehensive resource with lesson plans, charts, and links to additional resources on the topic.

University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia offers a guide for teaching about repatriation of artifacts collected by archaeologists and researchers. (Downloadable PDF)

Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University provides an online interactive lesson in forensic (physical) anthropology. (Requires Adobe flash and includes graphic and disturbing content)

If you wish to look at other anthropology resources from Simon Fraser University (which include videos, texts, and photographs) click here.


About the author: Deidre Rose

Deidre Rose is an anthropologist, lecturer, and freelance author. She obtained her doctorate in anthropology from the University of Toronto in 2005. She has published in the Journal of American Folklore and New Proposals and is currently teaching at the University of Guelph.

3 Responses to “Free Online Teaching Resources for Anthropology”

  1. Harriet Lyons says:

    Excellent resource. Would also be great for parents and teachers of children who are not being home schooled.

  2. Melissa says:

    I am happy to work with parents or students in structuring appropriate and individualized anthropological instruction. Melissa King, PhD

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