More Outreach: A Return to KIPP, Year Five


I brought some friends to show variation in the mandibles of some apes and hominins.

This is the fifth (and likely final) year that I’ve visited the 8th graders at the KIPP school in Lynn, Massachusetts. Each Spring I visit for about three hours to talk about anthropology, evolution, and what life in college is like. This coincides with the time in the school year they are discussing evolution in their science classes.

In my most recent visit last week, the theme of the day was how all living things are biologically related, though we focused mostly on humans and other primates. In a way, all humans are ‘cousins’, as is everything that lives. I also brought some fossil casts with me to enhance the presentation, including a new addition to our lab at UMass Boston — that of a Gigantopithecus. Of course, it was a big hit. Who can resist the concept of Gigantopithecus?  

When I started doing this, I asked around if any teachers in the area wanted me to come speak with their students. Only one teacher responded, and she kept inviting me back each year. This time she told me that she’s moving on to another position, so it will likely be my last year visiting KIPP unless something changes. I may have to find another way to share anthropology with middle schoolers.

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KIPP Students Rock!

…as does their teacher, Ms. Bertrand. 

I just got a nice package in the mail today, full of seventy or so “thank you” notes for my visit to the three 8th grade classes at KIPP Lynn last week. I appreciate it, guys.

What really makes me smile are the notes that mention how students had their curiosity piqued or that they explored some idea further on their own.  That alone is worth the visit. Learning isn’t limited to school. It never stops, and the world is yours to explore.

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More Public Outreach

For the third consecutive year, I went back to the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) school in Lynn, Massachusetts to share a little biological anthropology with some 8th graders again. They have a beautiful new building, and I’m even more impressed by their students. The first class starts at 7:25am, and they were really bright young minds who asked lots of questions.  I was a little burnt out by the third class, but the students really kept me on my toes. The three hours actually flew by.

Their teacher, Ms. Bertrand, even had the class present me with an Honor Roll t-shirt. Do I have any ganas? Yup.

Related: Public Outreach 3: Sharing Anthropology with 8th Graders.

Why Academia Should Be More Social

A friend asked me to write something about the benefits of social media like blogging, Twitter, etc. among academics. A few days ago, she posted it on her website, Impassion Media. My approach was that there are many ways to use social media, some of which can be a waste of time, but it can also be productive. I included a few anecdotes in there too.

I’m an academic and an anthropologist, so I’ve tailored my social media use for those fields. Others may have different experiences. Certainly, I may use it for connecting with friends or family, sharing music or humor, or just venting. This isn’t to dismiss the personal – academics are people too! (so I’ve heard) – but there are more substantive benefits… A partial list includes: sharing news on research, professional networking, and engaging with a wider audience through blogging.”

The rest of the post can be found here.


Public Outreach 3: Sharing Anthropology with 8th Graders

My 8th grade class. It’s relevant.

Last week, I spoke with three 8th-grade science classes at the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts. It’s my third visit in two years, and I’ve found my time there to be very well-spent. KIPP is a neat place. The teachers are passionate and believe in their students, who in turn are highly enthusiastic and engaged. On its website, the program mentions that its objective is to help students in under-served communities around the United States “climb the mountain to and through college.” This is accomplished through effective teachers, a lengthened school day and week, and by instilling “a strong culture of achievement.”

One very admirable aspect to their philosophy is that “demographics do not define destiny.” More than 87 percent of KIPP students nationally come from low-income families, but the school feels that this can be overcome through hard work, and they have the data to back this up. “There are no shortcuts,” is one of their school mottos. Good for them.


Some of the fossil casts I brought with me. Except the one on the left. That’s a boy (my son, actually).


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