Evolution: The Card Game

Imman Merdanovic ’17

Soon after Mindy Pitre, assistant professor of anthropology, started teaching at St. Lawrence, she recognized the need to bring course material to life in a more visual and collaborative manner. Together with Holly Hunold ’13, medical illustrator, and Nicole Burt, curator of human health and evolutionary medicine at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, she created a card game, “Origins: An Evolutionary Journey,” which makes learning complicated evolution concepts easier than ever.

“Origins is the first of its kind for biological anthropology courses,” Pitre says. “It teaches students about the nature of humanity from both a biological and cultural perspective, and it allows the instructor to disguise learning as fun. In fact, Pitre’s former student, Heather Raimer ’17, agrees, “The format of the game makes sure you are able to articulate ideas, identify groups of similar concepts, and describe, point out, or draw associated images or features.”

Through the game, students learn about the history of evolutionary thought, the fossil and genetic evidence for human evolution, the origins of language and culture and human biological diversification. This, Heather says, “is a way to both help review key concepts, realize what we might need to study more and provide another presentation of the material.”

The game consists of cards like ‘Guess WHO’ and ‘ARTifact,’ which are “color coded by overarching concepts and drawn by one of Pitre’s former students,” Heather says. “It has a few different ways to play; we can do a quick review as a group going through the cards specific to a section, but there is also a competitive way to play as teams. You get points for getting things right and there are ways to steal players from other teams.”

The excitement surrounding the game, which was also recently profiled on Forbes.com, has led to many new ideas.

“We have been throwing around the idea of expansion packs for the game, even creating a Human Osteology version,” Pitre says. “We love hearing about how it’s being used in the classroom to increase student learning outcomes. At the beginning the student are always a bit nervous…but in the end it’s hard to get them to stop.”

Answers: Fiction. Paranthropus. Phenotype is the physical manifestation of an organism’s genes. Louis Leakey employed Jane Goodall at the National Museum in Nairobi, Kenya.