© 1999 ENSI (Evolution & the Nature of Science Institutes) www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb
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A Mini-Lesson



Foot Length, Stride, Leg Length, Height

Jennifer Johnson


Human Evolution Patterns


Paleontologists occasionally find ancient tracks...footprints...preserved in the rocks. This lesson opens the door to analysing footprints, and gleaning information about body size and activities of the extinct animals that made the tracks.


Patterns in the present can help understand the past.

  A. Foot Length and Leg Length
B. Foot Length and Height
C. Leg Length and Height
D. Stride Length and Leg Length
E. Stride Length and Speed


 Meter Stick, Data Tables, Graph Paper


Three pages, with introduction, objectives, materials, procedures, discussion questions, and analysis questions, plus additional suggestions...
CLICK HERE to get this handout.


This lesson could be used as an extension of the "Footsteps in Time" lesson, or even a preliminary to that lesson. The use of this lesson, however, should NOT be considered as an alternative to "Footsteps...", as the intrinsic value of "Footsteps..." is that it uses real fossil tracks, of real hominins, and sheds light on the great antiquity of bipedalism in hominins (formerly "hominids").

See handout for introduction, procedures, and questions.

There are many elements of science in crime scene investigations (CSI), or forensic science, and, as in thIs lesson, there are many ways to incorporate this exciting field in your Nature of Science lessons. There are three lessons on our site that do this well: Crime Scene Scenario, the Checks Lab, and the Crime Against Plants lesson. Try them. And an excellent online resource for all sorts of ideas and materials can be found on Eric Rude's site: "Sources of Forensic Information and Supplies."

NEW EXTENSION (5/06): Teacher Patti Carothers of Monte Vista High School in Danville, CA offers this extension: Cut 20-meter pieces of butcher paper for each lab group. Each group selects one person to step one foot into tempura paint and walk on the paper. After washing that color off (she uses purple for walking prints), they step into green paint with one foot and run on the paper. They are able to measure their strides that way. We dry a section of each one and hang them on the wall.


Some of the ideas in this lesson may have been adapted from earlier, unacknowledged sources without our knowledge. If the reader believes this to be the case, please let us know, and appropriate corrections will be made. Thanks.

1. Original Source: Unknown

2. This lab was contributed by Jennifer Johnson at SENSI 96 in Hillsoborough, CA. She is now at the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology.

3. Edited / Revised for website by L. Flammer 4/99
Major revision 3/29/11 by L. Flammer

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