There is a lot to cover in the Plio-Pleistocene when it comes to hominin evolution. So, I put together 4 activities that will hopefully help students determine how one might identify an early hominin, assess the bipedal ability of the current earliest hominin contenders, critically assess competing hypotheses for why bipedality evolved, examine the wide range of Australopithecine variation during the Plio-Pleistocene.
You can find all four under #8 of my Teaching Activities Page.
I put together a fossil primate guide for my Fundamentals of Biological Anthropology course. My hope is it will help students make a bit more sense of all the names, places, dates, and details. The blank and filled versions are below, or you can find more details here.
Today I ran the Paleo-Reconstruction activity in my class, and I could not be happier with how it went. Students were provided with a picture of a fossil as though they were the ones to take it out of the ground. They had to analyze the anatomy and infer behavior. They were given more information as time went on such as the date of the fossil, other specimens found, and comparative specimens to refine their reconstruction.
You can find the activity, #6, here. Below is a compilation of the students’ work. Each slide has picture of the initial fossil, a professional reconstruction, and the students’ reconstruction. I am stunned how close they got – especially with the Tully Monster!
Having recently changed jobs, I also recently changed gyms. I have an incredibly complicated relationship with my previous gym and a deep emotional attachment. In order to work through my experience there, I wrote a piece for Sapiens.
This was an incredibly difficult bit of writing to work through, and brought me to tears countless times. I hope this is the start of a future project looking at culture and performance among powerlifters.
I hope you enjoy, or at least get something out of it.
This semester I have completely eliminated exams from my class and have focused instead on larger assignments that encourage students to engage with the material in more creative ways. One of these assignments was to create a podcast or youtube video about a primate of their choosing. They turned them in this past Thursday, and I could not be more delighted with the results. It is easy to see that the students are having more fun working like this rather than memorizing facts for an exam.
For example, one student did a podcast on howler monkeys and said the closest comparison he can come to a howler monkey sound is a death metal singer. He then took a death metal song, removed the real vocals, replaced it with howler monkey howls, and included the result in the podcast. It was brilliant! I think the only difference I would make with this assignment (which you can find here, #3, as well as samples of the student work) is to ask students to watch/listen to two of their classmate’s work and review it as well. That way, they are exposed to more information and ideas.
The other day I made a call on the Teaching College Anthropology Facebook page for help on in-class activities that cover basic information on fossils, taphonomy, dating techniques, and paleo-reconstructions. Sadly, the only responses I received were from other professors following the posts in hopes of hearing about any such activities.
This of course meant that I spent a day and a half thinking of and creating two activities to cover this material. Head on over to my Teaching Activities page and scroll down to activity #6 to see (and use if you like) the simple dating techniques activity, and the more complex and fun paleo-reconstruction activity.
I will be running these activities next week (10/1 & 10/3), and will post an update on how it went and student reception. I also welcome any questions, comments, or suggestions on what I put together.
Whenever I prep a new course, I always prickle at choosing a textbook and teaching from a textbook. No book has ever covered what I like the way I want it to be covered. Usually, after I teach a course for a semester, I toss the book out the window, and develop my own curriculum from various online and primary sources. However, I don’t always need to re-invent the wheel.
Dr. Holly Dunsworth has always been extremely kind and generous by sharing her text-less Human Origins and Evolution Syllabus. This is a fantastic resource, and it has given me lots of inspiration for abandoning my textbook next semester.
This week on the Sausage of Science, Chris and Cara chat with Jelena Jankovic, this year’s recipient of the HBA Phyllis Eveleth Award for Outstanding Graduate Presentation or Poster. Jelena’s poster titled, “Forced migration and chronic stress: A study of traumatic experiences, mental health, and cortisol among refugees in Serbia” was one of over 100 posters at the 2019 Conference. As a biocultural anthropologist, Jelena’s research focuses on migrant and refugee studies as well as human biology. In this episode, she chats with Chris and Cara about her work in Serbia, the science behind fingernail clippings, and her future research goals. To contact Jelena, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about her research by visiting her Notre Dame webpage: anthropology.nd.edu/graduate-progra…kovic-rankovic/.
I am hosting a science communication workshop for Notre Dame’s Science Policy Initiative group. See poster for details.