"They're learning a little about what anthropologists do and how the science of anthropology works," said Lucie Howell, director of the center, which works with a network of scientists and educators to advance the art of science education from kindergarten through the university level.
"The students must look at the data in front of them and determine which hypothesis is the right one."
The students worked with faculty in the University's anthropology faculty as well as members of the Quinnipiac Future Teachers organization on a half-dozen activities to better understand the science, methodologies and techniques.
In one activity, students sifted through a matrix looking for microfossils. The matrix is a mixture of small stones and bones from the mouth of a cave in the Koanaka Hills of northwest Botswana. The bones were likely collected by owls who capture small rodents and amphibians, carry the food back to the cave mouth and consume the animal there.
"Hands-on learning in STEM education is really what connects young people from the knowledge to their own lives," Howell said. "Anything you can do that is hands-on inquiry-based or project-based are by far the best learning techniques."
The middle school students said they had a great time learning more about anthropology. "You get to feel and see what the bones are instead of reading about them in a book," said Beyonce Harris, a Hamden Middle School student.
Howell said the work is part of a larger effort.
"Quinnipiac and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning are looking to work with all of our local school districts," said Howell. "We do that in multiple ways and with multiple projects--each one specific to the school district and to their needs and what they asked for."
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