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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution


How Did Humans Evolve?

View LESSON 5 Student Page

Activity 1: Fossil Finding

Activity 1: Teacher Notes

Activity 2: A Tree Full of Ancestors

Materials You'll Need:


A Tree Full of Ancestors: Discussion Questions (pdf)


3 sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" tracing paper




3 pens of different colors

Activity 2 Teacher Notes: A Tree Full of Ancestors

With this activity, students learn about human evolution and gain a better understanding of the scientific process. By comparing different family trees, they will understand that the same evidence can sometimes be interpreted in different ways. Through this, they come to appreciate the nature of science and its ability to adapt to new findings.

Part A: Tree Variation


Direct students to the Origins of Humankind Web activity. Instruct students to explore the activity and follow the directions on the Student Page.


You may wish to bring in alternate hominid family trees from other books and Web sites to supplement the ones found in the students' textbook and Web sites linked from the Student Page.


Depending on time constraints, you may want to make this a group project. Students could work in groups of three, and each student might be responsible for finding one family tree. They could then answer A Tree Full of Ancestors: Discussion Questions (pdf) as a team.


When students have completed the discussion questions, reconvene as a class and discuss them. In the class discussion, you may want to focus on the last three questions, which are more general and do not pertain to the specific family trees selected by students.


Another topic to bring up is researching genealogies. You could ask students to talk to their parents and draw their own family tree. They will find that the farther back they go, the more difficult it becomes to fill in all the branches, figure out the links, and find the common ancestors.

Part B: Your Discovery


This activity encourages students to think about what happens when new evidence is found. Will the new idea be accepted by the scientific community? How will it change previous interpretations?


Tell students to follow the directions on the Student Page. You may want to divide the class into pairs and choose one student to be the discoverer and the other to be the scientist questioning the claim.


Discuss recent claims from the real world. Go to the Origins of Humankind Web activity and click on Orrorin tugenensis on the timeline. Read about this controversial new addition to the hominid family tree. For additional background information to bring into the discussion, refer to the following online articles:

 Screen grab from the Origins of Humankind Web activity.

Origins of Humankind


Another Face in Our Family Tree When you get to the home page for Nature, type the title of the article in the box in the upper left hand corner of the screen and hit "quick search." This article discusses the recent discovery of three new australopithecine species, as well as the discovery of Orrorin tugenensis, which may be the oldest known hominid.


The Flat Faced Man of Kenya This brief feature explains the significance of the recent find of the skull of a newly discovered species called Kenyanthropus platyops.


Surprise Ancestor When you get to the home page for Discover, type the title of the article in the search box. This news brief discusses the discovery of ancient humans with modern traits. Members of the newly discovered species Australopithecus garhi had long legs and may have used tools to strip meat from bones.

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