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Day at the Museum

And we finally made it to my beloved American Museum of Natural History, where I started my science writing career as an intern, writing for Natural History magazine, many years ago. Then I went on to work as an editor for that same magazine. Good days!

We met in the morning (it was a no-school day) and watched and discussed some short videos about how anthropologists and geneticists use DNA to trace relationships between species, and between modern humans (us!) and their ancestors.

And off we went, straight to the Hall of Human Origins. Short trip, perfectly behaved girls.

I always love to see kids' (and adults') faces when they realize how very different animals share the exact same bones. Here's a good example:

In some species, the bones are stronger; in others, they are longer, and in others they are so reduced that they can barely be seen, but they are all the same bones. My favorite: the bones that form bat's wings are the very same bones that form our fingers. There's evolution for you. One set of bones, many different uses.

We saw the reconstruction of a neandertal head from a fossil skull by a paleoartist. Here's a nice video on how it is done:

And our family tree, well, their skulls

We did so much more. These are just the highlights. Next class, we'll continue to work on the video, discussing the idea that DNA fingerprinting is not a perfect technique and it often leads to false positives. We might need to introduce a new character to our evolving script!

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