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What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene?

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Science +1 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

This collection was designed to serve as a bridge between the high school biology units of evolution and ecology as students explore the evolution of humanity through both a biological and moral lens.  Students will use Project Zero Thinking Routines to examine various artifacts from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History as they grapple with answering the overarching question: What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene?  #GoGlobal

What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene? : Students answer/revise their initial answers to the overarching question after gaining additional knowledge from various learning activities: 

  • Claim/Support/Question:  Students use the Claim/Support/Question thinking routine to frame their thinking around and grapple with this question.
  • Skull Analysis > Human Evolution Misconceptions: After the discussion on human evolution misconceptions, students can revise their thoughts on "what it means to be human" and begin to develop a class list on the characteristics shared by humans.
  • Constructing an Ancestral Timeline: After constructing their timeline, students will have gained additional an understanding of specific morphological and behavioral characteristics of humans. 

Using this Collection: 

  • Detailed suggestions on how to implement the learning activities are found in the "information" section of each of the Blue Activity Tiles as well as the Project Zero Thinking Routine Tiles.
  • Notes regarding the use of each Project Zero Thinking Routine are documented as annotations within each individual Thinking Routine tile and provide specific instructions on how align these routines with this collection.  

Global Competency Connection:

  • Students will be challenged to “investigate the world” both in a modern and prehistoric sense as they explore this the resources in this collection.
  • One goal of this collection is to inspire students to take action as a result of considering the impacts that modern humans have had on the planet. 

Additional Questions Explored through this Collection:

  • What (specific behaviors, adaptations, etc.) allow species to survive?
    • This question can be highlighted during the skull sorting and analysis activities in order to help students review the concepts of adaptation, evolution by natural selection, etc. 
      • Extension: Teachers can project photos of these species in their natural environments and ask students to identify the adaptations that aid them in survival. This exploration can be used to explore full-body morphological differences between humans and non-humans.    
    • This question can also be explored as students analyze the Human Evolution Timeline Interactive. Teachers can ask students to compare and contrast the adaptations of various hominid species and propose ways in which these adaptations aided species to survive in their various environments. 
  • How have climatic changes impacted the survival of species over time?
    • This question can be presented as students explore the Interactive Human Evolution Timeline. The timeline presents data showing how the Earth's climate has fluctuated over the 8 million years of human evolution and highlights the fact that some of the most important milestones in human evolution occurred during the greatest climatic fluctuations. 
    • Teachers can use this exploration to foreshadow upcoming discussions of modern climate change.
  • How fragile is human life?
    • The Human Family Tree and Human Evolution Timeline interactives allow for thoughtful exploration of this question as they provide visualizations of hominid existence, individual species' lifespans in geologic time, and extinctions. 
    • Teachers can highlight the small amount of time that modern humans have existed in comparison to early humans as well as points in history that modern humans were faced with events that nearly caused extinction and ask students to grapple with the fragility of human life.  
  • Why do we matter as humans in the anthropocene?
    • This question serves as the bridge into the study of ecology and human impacts on the environment and challenges students to deeply consider their importance to their world. 


What Makes You Say That?: Project Zero Visible Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

OH 5, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Zhoukoudian, Early Human, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

STS 5, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Chimpanzee

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Taung Child, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Steinheim, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Orangutan

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Zhoukoudian Upper Cave 101, Human, Human

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Gorilla

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Petralona 1, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Kabwe 1, Fossil Hominid

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Looking: Ten Times Two: Project Zero Artful Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

See/Think/Wonder: Project Zero Visible Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

What is the Anthropocene?

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Think / Puzzle / Explore: Project Zero Visible Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

The 3Ys: Project Zero Global Competency Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access