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Meet the Scientist in the Hall of Human Origins, At the Sackler Educational Lab

Free with Museum Admission.

Join us in the Sackler Educational Laboratory for our new “Meet the Scientist” series. Scientists will talk about cutting-edge research that is helping us understand how and why we evolved to grow up, function, and look the way we do now. We will explore a range of topics on the biology and evolutionary history of our own species, including: paleoanthropology, primatology, genetics, and neuroscience. New research will be presented in an informal lab setting. Bring your curiosity!

Saturday August 1st, 3-5pm
Kinley Russell
NYU, Anthropology Masters Program
American Museum of Natural History
Sackler Educational Lab Facilitator

The Evolution of the Human Knee
One of the defining characteristics of the human family is the ability to walk upright. But changes in the knee joint that are useful for bipedalism sometimes come at a cost. Humans carry their weight with the knee in full extension, and there is a tradeoff between flexibility and stability. Join us as we explore the relationships between locomotion, body size, demography, and the anatomy of the knee in humans and other primates.

Sunday, August 2nd 3-5pm
Dr. Holly Dunsworth
Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Rhode Island

Your Evolutionary History Is Showing
Just like for any other species, what makes us "human" is only possible thanks to what came before us. For humans, it's the fossil apes and monkeys that help us define how Homo sapiens are unique. Our pelvic region alone is a hotspot for understanding evolution. For example, like the vast majority of animals, we too develop a tail, but ours disappears soon thereafter. Why is our tail gone, and what were the consequences of this loss for our ancestors? Also, we have a rather difficult time giving birth to our species' notoriously enormous and helpless babies. How could these traits, so seemingly antithetical to evolutionary success, evolve in our species? These are just two of the fascinating questions we can ask of the biology of our living relatives and the paleobiology of our long dead ones. What appear to be benign evolutionary changes in the fossil record add up to profound effects from our present point of view. Join Dr. Holly Dunsworth and she addresses these essential questions to reveal how our own bodies tell the rich and exciting story of our evolutionary history.


Visit the Sackler Lab to handle casts of hominid skulls, learn about DNA and the human brain, and ask a scientist your questions. For families with children 8 years old and up.

Lab highlights:

  • Measure features of ape and early hominid skulls - such as the size of their brains, teeth, and browridges - to determine how closely related they are to humans.
  • Observe the earliest stone tool technologies and determine how our early ancestors hunted and survived in their environments.
  • Visualize DNA from strawberries, and even yourself!
  • Assemble models of human brains to learn what parts we share with other animals and what parts are uniquely human.
  • Play brain games to test your memory, visual perception, and decision making abilities.
  • Use media interactives to learn about neurotransmitters and how the decisions you make everyday affect the chemicals in your brain.




If you teach 8th - 12th grade students classes and would like to book a class trip to the Sackler Educational Lab, please visit  our Class Trips website



The Museum is deeply grateful to the Hall's lead benefactors Anne and Bernard Spitzer, whose marvelous generosity inspired and made possible the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. The Museum also extends its gratitude to The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc., Katheryn C. Patterson and Thomas L. Kempner, Jr., Arlene and Arnold Goldstein, the Honorable Lucy Wilson Benson, and the Stout Family for their generous support.

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.









Past Offerings

hero image for educator's guide brain

Poison and the Brain

March 8, 2014 - March 16, 2014

Please join us for Brain Awareness Weekends in the Sackler Educational Laboratory. Our topic will be Poison and the Brain. We will feature several interactive stations guiding you through the complex and surprising world of neurotoxins and their affect on the brain.

American Museum of Natural History

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