Intro to Anthropology: Humankind

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Summer classes start the week of June 18 and end the week of July 23

Instructor: Anastasia Risley

5-10 students, 12+ years old


Have you ever wondered how humans got to be such a distinctly odd species of this Earth? We walk on two feet instead of four, we use tools of vast complexity and variety, we study the planets and beyond, we create art, and we wonder about many things, including ourselves! Have you ever met another animal that does all of these things? Let’s take a journey through time, from the primitive apes of dense jungles to the modern humans of dense cities. We will answer all kinds of questions in between, such as: “Why are our heads so big?”, “How did humans populate the planet?”, “Why do we grow our own food?”, “Are we the only species of human?”, and many other inquiries brought to the classroom by you! The class format will have a chronological focus on the timeline of human evolution, while encouraging critical thinking discussions, and integrating current discoveries being made in the anthropology field. For the final AnthroProject, students will choose from a handful of project  options, ranging from human history of their local region, to writing a story from an ancient human's perspective, to gathering evidence to explain a collective human behavior. Join me for an expedition into the story of humanity!

Prerequisites: None


  •  Week 1: Introductions and Curiosities
    • Syllabus review and questions.
    • What interests you about human history?
  • Week 2: What is Anthropology?
    • Methods of study and history of humans studying themselves
  • Week 3: Evidence:
    • Acquisition methods- Archaeology
    • Credibility processes
    • Interpretation
  • Week 4: : Human EvolutionFirst intelligent apes
    • Climate change
  • Week 5: Walking Upright and Enlarged Brains
    • Other distinctly human physical qualities
  • Week 6: Battles of Theory:
    • Major difference in evidence interpretation, anthropologists with differing ideas
    • Intro to project: What’s Your Theory?
  • Week 7: Ways of Life for Early Humanoids:
    • Traveling
    • Food acquisition & fire
    • The earliest tools
  • Week 8: Homo sapiens: the last remaining humanoidsHow and why did the others go extinct?
  • Week 9: The Early Homo sapien
    • Environment and social structures
  • Week 10: Tools, tools, tools:
    • What we know about the social evolution of tool use in Homo sapiens
  • Week 11: Spring Break
  • Week 12: More differing theories—and their origins
    • How did humans populate the Earth?
  • Week 13: Researching credible anthropological sources
    • Intro to final “AnthroProject”
  • Week 14: Early agriculture
    • What sparked the discovery of agriculture?
  • Week 15: Agricultural methods:
    • Pastoralism
    • Wilderness management
    • Horticulture
    • Optional presentations
  • Week 16: Last Presentations
    • Open discussion about course material


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