Upper School Science took over the Ceramics studio recently, laying down a large clay slab and walking in it to simulate the steps and footprints of our very first bipedal ancestors. Students compared their own toe and heel depths to footprints made more than 3 million years ago. They walked two different ways – fully upright, bent-knee/bent-hip – to determine whether the ancient footprints resulted from human-like walking or primate-like walking.

Science Teacher Ryan Skophammer adapted this innovative and interdisciplinary teaching method from an 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.

Discovering Walking Styles of Our First Bipedal Ancestors

An independent, forward-thinking
day school for girls, grades 4–12

324 Madeline Drive
Pasadena, California 91105
Phone: 626-799-1153
Fax: 626-799-9236
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