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Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins

Dar es Salaam & Tarangire field site, Tanzania


Students participate in the following courses—see below for more detailed course descriptions:

  • Kiswahili Language
  • Human Evolution
  • Ecology of the Maasai Ecosystem

  • Research Methods & Field Practicum

Kiswahili Language

Instructors: University of Dar es Salaam faculty

Required, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

Early acquisition of language skills is critically important for students becoming acclimated to a culture so different from their own. Students therefore begin Intensive Kiswahili shortly after arriving in Dar es Salaam. Taught by professors from the Kiswahili Department, this language course features intensive classroom study (four hours per day) for the first four weeks, plus homework and occasional field trips. In the second month, students continue to meet regularly to improve their conversational, grammar and vocabulary skills as they learn the fundamentals of Tanzania's national language.

Human Evolution

Instructor: Dr. P. Bushozi (History & Archaeology, University of Dar es Salaam)

Required, 4 semester credits

Photo courtesy of Bruce Roberts.

Click here to see a course syllabus

This course will be taught by archaeology faculty at the University of Dar es Salaam. It will cover the basic principles of evolution, hominid development, and the particular evidence of human evolution in Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli. The course begins at the University of Dar es Salaam, continues with field trips in the Northern Region of Tanzania, and concludes with exams and papers in the final weeks of the program.

Ecology of the Maasai Ecosystem

Instructor: Prof. R.B.M. Senzota (Zoology, University of Dar es Salaam)

Required, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

This course, taught by zoology faculty at the University of Dar es Salaam, examines the fundamental elements of ecology, drawing its examples from Tanzanian ecosystems, especially those of the Serengeti Plain and Ngorongoro Crater.

Research Methods & Field Practicum

Instructor: ACM Program Director

Required, 4 semester credits

Click here to see a course syllabus

In Dar es Salaam, the Methods Course covers research methods and project preparation, including development and creation of a project proposal. Students will also receive general information about contemporary Tanzanian society and culture.  In the field, students engage in independent and collaborative field work activities in areas such as human ecology, biology, paleo-anthropology, archaeology, zoology, and socio-cultural anthropology. Topics depend on student interest, the composition and needs of the group, the resources available, and faculty/site expertise. In some cases, students work within the existing projects of Tanzanian or visiting experts.  Students are encouraged to work on collaborative projects (which still allow individual inquiry) for maximum exposure and understanding of the varieties of research questions, data-gathering and analytic techniques;  possible areas for collaborative inquiry that are high priority at the site include questions about water, public health, tourism, education, wildlife, archaeological sites, and indigenous populations.  Upon their return to Dar es Salaam, students continue to analyze their data, write final reports, give public presentations, and create museum displays or posters for local distribution.  (Note: The photo album has pictures from the field sites and of wildlife in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.)

Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins

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Julia Varnergardner Being abroad taught me so many things about other people (my host family, my professors, and my new friends) as well as myself. I learned how to make friends easily and get myself from one place to the next with only the help I could offer myself. Friendships made in Tanzania were fast and strong despite whatever cultural differences we may have had. The ACM Tanzania program was perfect for me because I was able to gain credit for my biology major, while pursuing other passions as well. I studied new subjects, such as anthropology and human evolution, and Swahili (which I never before knew could be such a fun experience). The language aspect of the program was really wonderful because Swahili is a beautiful language and knowing it helped me to connect more with local people. I came into the country with wide-open expectations and that got me a long way. Without having any preconceptions I was able to become an entirely new person in Tanzania. I learned the meaning of confidence and patience and friendliness. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Tanzania and my experiences there with affection and I would love so much to be able to go back one day.

—Julia Varnergardner, Tanzania, Fall 2009

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The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) is a consortium of independent, liberal arts colleges in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado.