New program launch: The Neanderthal Next Door


Last week we launched at the Museum an exciting new youth program, called The Neanderthal Next Door. The title refers to the fact that evolution is not linear, we lived at the same time as the Neanderthal and, at least some cases, got cozy enough that we now carry a sizable percentage of Neanderthal DNA within us all.

This program will run through January, using our Sackler Educational Laboratory (for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins) within the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. As the youngest hall within the Museum (opened in 2007), it pairs fossils with DNA research to present the history of human evolution. The hall covers millions of years of human history, from early ancestors who lived more than six million years ago to modern Homo sapiens, who evolved 200,000 to 150,000 years ago.


This new program, which will run through January, is immersing twenty students from a Brooklyn school in the Hall, the Lab, and content related to Human evolution – all with a special focus on Neanderthals.

The Lab is open on the weekends for visitors to drop by and, through hands-on activities, explore in a deeper way the content experienced within the Hall. Working with our good buddies at Geomedia, together we will explore how a digitally augmented activity guide (that is, a traditional print booklet with an associated mobile app) can engaged visitors in the Hall and motivate them to engaged within the Lab.


This fall we will run the educational program for and with the youth, to develop the design document. In winter we will develop a public-ready prototype. And in the spring ten youth will return in a weekend internship program to facilitate the public’s use of the augmented activity guide while beta-testing its efficacy.

Watch this space for more information as the program develops. You can check out more photos from the October sessions here (or the image below produced through the new Post-It Plus app which captured the little colored squares from the word web of “Evolution” within the photo above.)



About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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