of Human Origins: Classroom Ideas
9 Through 12
the Progress of Science
Discuss the concept of science as a process of formulating and testing
hypotheses, and ask your students if they think its easy to prove
anything as fact. Have them read The Dawn of Humans: Redrawing
Our Family Tree? in the August 1998 issue of NATIONAL
Ask them to list the ways in which Lee Bergers research is challenging
previous beliefs about human ancestors.
Send students to
Human Evolution: You Try It at http://www3.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/evolution
and have them read the information under Related People and Discoveries
entries. Ask them to list the ways in which the discoveries described
on these pages (particularly Lucy) challenged previous beliefs about
human ancestors. Can students think of any other current scientific
beliefs that may someday be disproved?
Ask students to
find a scientific news article and assess the confidence level of the
scientists who are the sources of the article. Do your pupils think
that the general public will accept this research as fact? What hypotheses
might call this research into question? What studies could come close
to proving or disproving this research?
Give the class a brief introduction to cladograms. (Visit the Journey
Into Phylogenetic Systematics site at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/clad/clad4.html
to learn about this topic.) Have students look at each cladogram at
and explain the relationships among the four species in plain English.
Then ask them to explain why there are three cladograms on this page.
Is any one of them more correct than the others? Does anyone know for
sure which cladogram represents the true evolutionary progression?
Ask students to read about Darwins theory of evolution at Virtual
and about the history of evolutionary thought at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/evolution.html.
Then ask them to imagine that theyre scientists in a learned society.
Some believe all life could have evolved from a single source. Others
disagree. Have each student (or small group) go through Traveling With
The Time Machine at http://users.aol.com/chinlin3/tmachine.htm
and, using arguments from this site, write a speech marshalling specific
scientific data to support their arguments. Stage a debate in class.
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