Activity for The Origin of Humans
This activity explores the concepts and research on the evolutionary origins of humans discussed in the short film Great Transitions: The Origin of Humans.
The film highlights important hominid fossil discoveries of the past 50 years and the insights they provide into human evolution. The research described in the film focuses on three key human traits: bipedalism, tool use, and larger brains.
The “Student Handout” probes students’ understanding of the key concepts addressed in the film. The “Educator Materials” document provides suggested pause points in the film with questions for students, background information, and detailed discussion points; a list of related resources and references; and an answer key for the “Student Handout.”
Student Learning Targets
- Explain how the fossil record details the history of life on Earth, including transitions from one major group of animals to another.
- Recognize that major transitions often occur in distinct phases, as shown by the evolution of humans from quadrupedal apes.
- Describe how fossil evidence provides information on the evolution of traits in humans and other organisms.
anthropology, Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, bipedalism, fossil, hominin, Laetoli, primate, Zinjanthropus
Leakey, L. S. B. “A New Fossil Skull from Olduvai.” Nature 184, 4685 (1959): 491–493. https://doi.org/10.1038/184491a0.
Lovejoy, C. Owen. “The Origin of Man.” Science 211, 4480 (1981): 341–350. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.211.4480.341.
White, Tim D., Gen Suwa, and Berhane Asfaw. “Australopithecus ramidus, A New Species of Early Hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia.” Nature 371, 6495 (1994): 306–312. https://doi.org/10.1038/371306a0.
1.A.4, 1.B.2; SP6
5.1, 5.4, 10.3