Upper School Science took up space in the Ceramics studio this week with a large clay slab used to simulate the steps of our very first bipedal ancestors. Students compared their own toe and heel depths to footprints taken over 3 million years ago. They walked two different ways – fully upright, bent-knee/bent-hip – to determine whether footprints were made by human-like walking or primate-like walking.
Science teacher, Ryan Skophammer, adapted this innovative and interdisciplinary teaching method from a pre-existing experiment that involves comparing paint tracks of modern human footprints to those left at Laetoli in Tanzania 3.4 million years ago. He collaborated with Art Teachers, David Prince (who had the bright idea to make 3D impressions in clay) and Lorri Deyer, to develop the materials, location, and walking procedure. Skophammer purposely made his assignment a physical one in order to convey “the reality of how the footprints were actually made. [It] improved [the students] engagement with the project and their understanding.” All of this great work resulted in a lab that was quantitative, fun, and a true example of making thinking visible.