The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

6 Million Years in 6 Minutes: Teaching Human Evolution in an Informal Museum Learning Environment


Education, American Museum of Natural History

March 28, 2015 , Archview Ballroom Add to calendar

Human Evolution is a complex topic; filled with nuance, plagued by misconceptions and marked by controversy. To rapidly and effectively communicate this information to museum visitors requires a set of cogent and compelling engagement strategies. The Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History is a unique hands-on laboratory space within the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. This lab gives the public the opportunity to engage with museum educators, handle fossil casts, and ask questions the exhibit hall cannot answer. Our visitors are diverse in their prior knowledge, cultural perspectives, and commitment to learning. We have developed a set of set of prompts, questions, and printed and digital materials that act to capture visitor attention, and deepen their understanding of human evolution, genetics and neuroscience. Here, we demonstrate how we have distilled big concepts into compelling educational learning materials, without sacrificing impact or accuracy.

The American Museum of Natural History greatly acknowledges The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc. for its support to establish the Sackler Brain Bench, part of the Museum's Sackler Educational Laboratory.