Activity Introduction

hand-heroQuick summary: Students investigate the adaptations of the human hand and foot, and speculate about the role these played in human evolution. Students are asked to observe the structure and motion of their own hands and feet and report on their observations.

Learning goals:

  • Students understand the significance of the opposable thumb in humans and how this has influenced our evolution.
  • Students recognise a range of adaptations of the human hand and foot.
  • Students recognise how human feet and hands have evolved from the same homologous structure.

21st century skills:

evolution homologous skills

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content description:

Year 10 Science

  • The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)

Syllabus Outcomes: SC5-14LW, SC5-15LW.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.

Relevant parts of Year 10 Science achievement standards: Students explain the processes that underpin heredity and evolution.

Topic: Evolution.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – oversee activity.

Resources required: X-rays of human hands and feet, pencil and ruler for each student, Student Worksheet – one copy per student OR computers/tablets to access the online worksheet.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for extension and homework.

Keywords: Human evolution, hand, foot, homologous structures, adaptations.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.

Worksheets

Teacher Worksheet

chimp-heroTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this lesson students will understand the significance of the opposable thumb in humans and how this has influenced our evolution. They will recognise a range of adaptations of the human hand and foot, and will understand how human feet and hands may have evolved from the same homologous structure.

Teacher content information:

Crash Course Big History #6: Human Evolution (https://youtu.be/6PZYYIaB0UY)

Teaching sequence

5 - 10 minutes - Looking at images of hands and feet.
50 - 55 minutes - Hand and foot adaptation activities.
5 minutes - Reflection questions.

Work through this resource material in the following sequence:

Step 1. Ask students to look at the images below comparing human and animal hands and feet (also available on the Student Worksheet). Working as a class, briefly compare these differences, speculating on how and why they evolved in different ways.

Consider the following questions in prompting dis

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- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought starter: What other animals use tools?

Introduction - How are we different to animals?

Look at the images below comparing animal feet and arms/wings with human feet and arms. What are the significant differences and why do you think these exist? How and why did they evolve in these ways?

feet arms
Clockwise from top left: Chimpanzee, Gorilla, Orangutan, Baboon, Siamang, Human From top: Pterodactyl wing, bird wing, bat wing, human arm

When studying the evolution of humans, we can see that there were several significant steps on the way to becoming modern humans. One of these is brain size, another is the shape of our skull and jaw, another is the slope of our legs and our ability to walk bipedally, and another is the use of tools.

The use of tools is important because it shows that our hands have evolved enough to grip these tools.

In this activity you will examine adaptations of the human hand by looking at your own hand and comparing your hand to the hands of

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- or - to view worksheets

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