In and Beyond Africa

What Is It?

In & Beyond Africa (IABA) is a animated and strikingly appealing set of interactive learning resources freely accessible on the website Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.

Subtitled “follow our genomic journey,” the interactive opens with an overview of human migrations throughout Africa and beyond. In addition, five mini-games focused on topics of human development have been folded into the online interactive. Through gaming, visitors can learn about the rudiments of prehistoric tool making; the genetic basis of human skin pigmentation; genetics facts of a number of domesticated crops and animals; and even about the multiple genome projects that have been performed on the Neolithic mummy Ötzi the Iceman. The interactive closes with a thought provocative game, “Deep Future,” in which visitors can project into word clouds their thoughts on how humans will continue to evolve in the near and far-reaching future.

How Does It Work?

The IABA site opens with an elaborate animation of the African savanna featuring moving animals and the sounds of the outdoors – gazelles grazing peacefully near an acacia tree, while birds fly overhead and clouds drift slowly past a snow-capped mountain. Click the “launch” button, and this view sinks slowly out of sight, to be replaced by the globe, and then a map of the continents. Users are prompted to select a “Time Period” from five eras: beginning 200,000-40,000 years ago, moving through 40,000-15,000 years ago, and finally approaching the Present Day. Click on the selected period to populate the map with colored dots showing where human beings lived during that time. In addition, “i” spots (which appear with an attention-getting “Sproing!”) link students to noteworthy events within the longer time periods. For example, humans began dispersing from Siberia toward the Bering Land Bridge about 30,000 years ago. A moving timeline at the bottom of each screen corresponds to the occurrence of migration events shown on the maps.

Why Is It Important To Me?

This interactive site summarizes 200,000 years of human development and migration in an easy-to-grasp format. Through the use of maps, colored dots, high-quality animations, and interactive timelines – and anchored by noteworthy events – a impressive amount of information is organized in a form that can be easily navigated forward, backward, or even randomly. The optional soundtrack and opening images also enrich this resource. Students may enjoy reviewing this initial material as they learn more about human development from activities on the pull-down menu.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): Disciplinary Core Ideas: Life Sciences (LS1; LS3; LS4); Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation; Practices: Asking Questions and Defining Problems; Obtaining & Evaluating Information