Idea for Use in the Classroom

Have students watch the video about Carter Clinton, a genetic anthropologist studying soil samples from graves to draw conclusions about how African Americans lived and died in New York over 400 years ago.

Using the video, have students identify the purpose for Carter Clinton’s work in the global context (for example, to learn more about the lives and deaths of people in the context of the presence of infectious disease). Then have students work in pairs or groups to identify Carter Clinton’s research question, the variables and controls he used in his experimental tests, what tools he needed to gather the soil samples from different individuals, and how much data he needed to collect to support his claims. Have students also consider where possible sources of error could occur that might affect his data (for example, decomposition of other organisms or change in the community over time). 

Have students work in partners or small groups to identify a genuine question of inquiry that extends Carter Clinton’s work. For example, students might compare geographical regions, changes over time, or extend the genomic research to different species. Have students

  • determine the purpose of posing their extension question (i.e., why it matters in a global context).
  • develop a hypothesis with reasoning.
  • identify independent and dependent variables and controls.
  • outline their methods, including what tools are needed to do data gathering, how measurements will be recorded and determining the appropriate number of trials.

Finally, have students prepare and present their proposed research for evaluation by their peers and/or panel, who will decide which project to fund.

data
Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.

error
Noun

mistake.

hypothesis
Noun

statement or suggestion that explains certain questions about certain facts. A hypothesis is tested to determine if it is accurate.

research
Noun

scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

variable
Noun

piece of data that can change.