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Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-grayscale


Producer: WNET-grayscale


Funder: National Science Foundation-grayscale

Major funding for The Human Spark is provided by the National Science Foundation, and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Additional funding is provided by the John Templeton Foundation, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, and The Winston Foundation.

What makes us uniquely human? In a three-part series originally broadcast on PBS in January 2010, Alan Alda takes this question personally, visiting with dozens of scientists on three continents, and participating directly in many experiments – including the detailed examination of his own brain.Through this collection of lesson plans and video resources, students join Alda in searching for the answer to this question. In the process, they explore human evolution, prehistory, child development, the human brain, and more.

A Day in the Life of a Neanderthal


Video

A Day in the Life of a Neanderthal

In this video segment from The Human Spark, host Alan Alda looks at some of the similarities and differences between the Neanderthal way of life and that of modern humans.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 644
  • Favorites: 20
A Matter of Size


Video

A Matter of Size

Learn about the brains of a rat, monkey, chimp, and human and why some brains are bigger than others in this video from The Human Spark.

  • Grades: 5-12
  • Views: 835
  • Favorites: 52
A Social Network


Video

A Social Network

Alan Alda explores the relationship between social and technological change, specifically in Neanderthal and modern human populations in this video from The Human Spark.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 92
  • Favorites: 6
The Art Spark


Video

The Art Spark

In this video segment from The Human Spark, host Alan Alda journeys to France to view some of the earliest and most dramatic evidence of prehistoric human sophistication.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 304
  • Favorites: 30
Being Human


Lesson Plan

Being Human

Using segments from the PBS program The Human Spark, students explore the question “What makes us human?”

  • Grades: 5-8
  • Views: 902
  • Favorites: 43
Beyond the Present


Video

Beyond the Present

This video from The Human Spark provides a look at humans' unique ability to reflect upon events that have happened in the past and think about things that could possibly happen in the future.

  • Grades: 5-12
  • Views: 183
  • Favorites: 13
The Brain in Action


Video

The Brain in Action

This video segment from The Human Spark observes the brains responses to a series of cognitive tests.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 999
  • Favorites: 76
Chimp Politics


Video

Chimp Politics

In this video from the PBS series The Human Spark, host Alan Alda and scientist Franz de Waal observe and compare two alpha-male chimpanzees’ different approaches to sharing at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 173
  • Favorites: 11
The Community of Symbolism


Video

The Community of Symbolism

In this video segment from The Human Spark, host Alan Alda discovers how the creation and wearing of jewelry by early humans started the change in social organizations that allowed Neanderthals to be replaced by modern humans.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 100
  • Favorites: 7
Cooperation Over Competition


Video

Cooperation Over Competition

In this video from The Human Spark, scientists discuss what may be the uniquely “human spark” which separates us from animals: our ability to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate with others.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 106
  • Favorites: 10
The Developing Brain


Video

The Developing Brain

This video from The Human Spark illustrates the difference between the brain growth of man’s early ancestors and today’s modern infant.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 605
  • Favorites: 45
The Developing Child


Lesson Plan

The Developing Child

Students explore the stages of development children experience from birth the age five including brain growth, language development and what shapes their views on right and wrong.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 1390
  • Favorites: 47
Digging for the Truth


Lesson Plan

Digging for the Truth

In this lesson, students will use videos from The Human Spark to learn how archeologists discover and examine physical evidence and use it to formulate theories explaining how and why humans were able to advance beyond our now-extinct cousins.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 280
  • Favorites: 32
Experimenting with Experiments


Lesson Plan

Experimenting with Experiments

Using segments from The Human Spark, students learn how to design and critique experiments with living subjects.

  • Grades: 5-8
  • Views: 615
  • Favorites: 35
Freak-Genomics


Lesson Plan

Freak-Genomics

In this lesson students will enter the world of the genome, learning about human history and evolution by using video segments from The Human Spark.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 156
  • Favorites: 33
The Garbage of Everyday Life


Video

The Garbage of Everyday Life

Host Alan Alda visits Abri Castanet — a collapsed Rock Shelter which housed the Neanderthals and early humans in this video segment from The Human Spark.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 150
  • Favorites: 11
How We Learn


Video

How We Learn

In this segment from The Human Spark, host Alan Alda observes experiments at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology which demonstrate how differently human children and orangutans learn how to complete tasks.

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Views: 179
  • Favorites: 22
Human Nature


Video

Human Nature

This video segment from The Human Spark looks at the ways in which monkeys and apes are similar to humans, not just biologically but mentally and socially.

  • Grades: 5-12
  • Views: 318
  • Favorites: 38
Human vs. Chimp Thinking


Video

Human vs. Chimp Thinking

This video segment from The Human Spark features a discussion about how human thought differs from that of chimpanzees.

  • Grades: 5-12
  • Views: 383
  • Favorites: 21
Humans vs. Chimps


Video

Humans vs. Chimps

This video segment from The Human Spark takes a look at experiments which compare the abilities and reactions of human children and chimps.

  • Grades: 5-12
  • Views: 575
  • Favorites: 19