Help Solve The Riddle of Neanderthal Disappearance

Education posts

The Museum’s Sackler Educational Laboratory is looking for a few good Neanderthal detectives—and you just might fit the bill.

High school students Monica Chhay and Sarah Carrillo show a visitor how to use a smartphone to create virtual Neanderthal tools. © AMNH/M. Shanley

High school students Monica Chhay and Sarah Carrillo show a visitor how to use a smartphone to create virtual Neanderthal tools.

© AMNH/M. Shanley


Starting this weekend, Museum staff and student interns from Millennium Brooklyn High School will be testing a new interactive program, “CSN: Crime Scene Neanderthal,” in the Sackler Educational Laboratory on the first floor. To participate, just come to the lab any Saturday or Sunday after noon through June 6 and be prepared to pursue prehistoric clues to solve a science-based mystery.

Armed with a paper guide and a mobile app, student interns will lead you to virtual and cast Neanderthal fossils, dioramas, and microscopes to help unravel such puzzles as: how do we know a Neanderthal’s hair color? What can clues tell us about Neanderthal culture? What killed off this recent human relative?

“This interactive experience will add new content to the hall and show visitors that science is a dynamic process with new information emerging all the time,” says Julia Zichello, manager of the Sackler Educational Lab. “CSN more directly links the hall to the hands-on experience in the lab.” 

“CSN: Crime Scene Neanderthal” was developed earlier this year by 19 high school seniors from Millennium Brooklyn High School over a 14-week period. In that time, they worked with a science advisor and Museum staff to develop an interactive experience for family visitors based on cutting-edge research and rooted in the resources of the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins and the Sackler Educational Laboratory. It’s part of an experimental approach to engaging youth in science learning by challenging students to co-design a unique Museum experience for families.

Tools crafted by Neanderthals on display in the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins.  ©AMNH

Tools crafted by Neanderthals on display in the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. 

©AMNH


“CSN is both a fantastic opportunity for the students and a 21st-century learning experience for Museum visitors,” says Barry Joseph, the Museum’s associate director for digital learning. “CSN helps us explore what digital layers—like mobile games, augmented reality, access to real-time information, and more—can add to a visitor’s engagement with scientific content within the Museum.”

As CSN kicks off, another student digital learning project is on the horizon: MicroRangers, a mobile game to solve problems related to microbial organisms, biodiversity, and human health, that will launch this fall when the Museum opens a special exhibition on the human microbiome.

The Museum’s Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins is a state-of-the-art interactive lab. Located on the first floor, inside the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, it is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 pm and free with Museum admission.

The Museum 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 for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins, in the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, offering ongoing programs and resources for adults, teachers, and students to illuminate the extraordinary workings of the human brain. 

The 14-week student program and spring internships are supported by a generous grant from The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation.

Additional support for the development of the “CSN” prototype was provided by Miguel and Grace Hennessy and The Margarita and John Hennessy Family Foundation.