Future Anthropologists Visits Forensic Lab

By Diana Danh ‘17

The AP Human Geography class was surrounded by human skulls tracing back to over 3 million years ago. The class took a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History for a forensic anthropology lab and a quick activity about human origins on Thursday, May 19.

The class, taught by Ms. Jenessa Kornaker, was able to look at human bones and determine who the missing person was. The activity required students to take  different types of measurements and calculations after observing the skull, femur, pelvic bone and more.

Students were given a set of bones from a missing person and were expected to narrow down the range of the age, height, and weight, and also decide what the gender was.

The activity was separated into six different stations which focused on one part of the bones provided. Students had to figure out the projected age from skull and jaw and how the bones formed compared to different stages of human life. The femur was used to find the range of the person’s height and weight and then the pubic symphysis was used to to find the gender.   

After measuring, the students had to compare their results to a list of missing people and narrow it down to one suspect using DNA from family members. Though all the bones used in the lab were plastic, they resembled a real skeleton with each dent and detail.

“The forensic anthropology lab was enjoyable and informative. I learned how to identify a person’s sex and age with their bones and how the skull structure changed over time,” said Winnie Chen ’17.

She explained it was harder than she thought to identify a person and even if all the measurements were right, it only gave an estimate of who the person might be.

“Some of the evidence we collected, the information was contradicting and it fluctuated from female to male often,” Chen continued.

Michelle Antonov ’17 added, “She would have been missing for years and we wouldn’t have cracked the case if we didn’t get help. But it was interesting how the cranium played a role in aging the individual.”

Chen, who wants to go into the forensic field, found the trip exciting and insightful to her future career and similar to her favorite show, Bones.

After the lab, Mr. Reginald Krepski, student teacher of the American Museum of Natural History, brought the students to Hall of Human Origins and gave out worksheets.

The activity required the students to play with the interactive maps that lit up to show when early humans migrated. The map provided information that students were able to trace the origins of the human species to Africa.

The day before the trip, Mr. Krepski surveyed the class to see what they had thought where humans originated from and where they migrated to. After the trip, the students were asked to answer the same questions but with evidence from the trip this time.

Anna Novikova ’17 said, “I knew that humans originated from Africa but I had no idea when they migrated to Europe and Asia. Playing the maps, I learned so much about how our ancestors traveled outwards and the skull formation and development.”

Susanna Zheng ’17 further described the skull maps that displayed how the skull also developed throughout the centuries. Zheng added, “The maps explained why the skull grew in size due to the brain development and even compared it to other animals.”

After the planned activities, students were free to roam around the museum and see other exhibits and floors.

This was the first time Ms. Kornaker had ever done the lab and she constantly expressed her excitement, being able to tie the lab and the exhibits into the school work the class has done during the school year. Ms. Kornaker added,“I had a teacher heart flutter moment.” She stated she was proud of her students as they worked and argue over the evidence to solve the missing persons case.

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