ANTH 415 The Human Story: Evolution, Fossils and DNA
Instructor: Meghan Howey
This course uses
an evolutionary approach to investigate human biological and bio-cultural
variation in time and space. Through a study of the basics of population
genetics, an evaluation of our closest living relatives, nonhuman primates, and
an exploration of the biological and cultural pathways traversed by our
ancestors to become modern Homo sapiens, students learn the depth and
complexity of the human story. Laboratory exercises dealing with human
genetics, hominin fossils, and evolution are integrated with lectures to give
students hands-on learning experience. No credit earned if credit received for
4.000 Credit hours
Questions for Megan Howey
- How does teaching this class online change your approach?
In thinking about transitioning this course to an online format, I was at first concerned about the content and making sure I covered the material fully. As I started to structure the course, I actually saw an exciting opportunity to integrate virtual laboratory exercises in a very meaningful way. These “virtual labs” provide hands-on interaction with course material, providing students the opportunity, for example, to take measurements on a virtual image of Lucy’s skeleton. While I have used these exercises to some extent during the traditional classroom semester long setting, I found the transition to online opened the opportunity for these to form a more substantive portion of the course and I think students will actually benefit in the online environment from learning in this more involved way.
- What most interested you about this subject matter?
It was actually my course in Human Evolution as a freshman in college that led me to change my major to anthropology. While I specialized in archaeology and not biological anthropology, I always retained a deep and abiding interest in the biocultural evolution of our species. The story of how we became Homo sapiens is fascinating at a fundamental level. Looking at the six million years of the hominin fossil record, we can see stops and starts in our lineage and we can start to identify the moments we began to move towards human-ness, such as when our ancestors became efficient bipeds, when they first buried their dead, when they developed art, language, music, etc. In this course, I try to give students a sense of our place in nature, what we share with our closest relatives the non-human primates, how we are influenced by natural selection, and how the evolution of our species has meant increasingly that our cultural capacity has transformed our biology.
- Do you have a philosophy about learning? Has it changed as technology has changed?
My teaching philosophy emerges from my experience teaching in hands-on field settings. Through this, I have a deep appreciation for the power of materiality in transforming student learning. When the intangible and tangible connect, students come to understand concepts in vibrant and real ways. I work to bring the material and the experiential into the classroom in order to allow students to become active participants in their own education, which is my ultimate goal as a teacher. The online format actually provides a strong platform for achieving this interactive goal and I hope the course is successful.
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