Biological Anthropology Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students on the subject of biological anthropology with this lesson plan. The students will peruse a text lesson, take a related follow-up quiz, and participate in two hands-on activities to reinforce new concepts.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson your students will be able to:

  • Define biological anthropology.
  • Name five subfields of biological anthropology.
  • State what the five subfields attempt to discover.


1-1.5 Hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Evolutionary medicine
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Human behavioral ecology
  • Paleoanthropology
  • Primatology
  • Social behaviors

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


  • Inform your students they are going to be studying the field of biological anthropology.
  • Ask your students if anyone is familiar with this field?
  • Review the key vocabulary terms.
  • Pass out copies of the text lesson What is Biological Anthropology? - Definition & Subfields or pull up the video lesson for the class to watch.
  • Read or watch the introduction and the first section 'What is Biological Anthropology?'
    • What is another name for biological anthropology?
    • How is it utilized to study people?
  • Next read or watch the section 'The Different Anthropology Fields'
    • Can you name five subfields of biological anthropology?'
    • What does paleoanthropology try to do?
    • What does studying fossils help scientists determine?
    • What does studying the anatomy and social behaviors of primates help scientists determine?
    • What do primatologists attempt to learn?
    • How do forensic anthropologists help to solve crimes?
  • Now read or watch the sections 'Behavioral Ecology' and 'Evolutionary Medicine.'
    • What do behavioral ecologists study?
    • Why might a scientist study evolutionary medicine?
  • Lastly, read or watch the section 'Lesson Summary,' review the lesson, and answer any questions your students may ask of you.
  • Have the students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate their understanding of the material.

Activity One

  • Let your students know they are going to be participating in a fun 'Matching' type of game.
  • Divide your students up into pairs.
  • Hand out two preprinted worksheets, one with the following 15 terms involving biological anthropology, and one with the 15 related definitions, in mixed order:

1) Darwinian medicine - another name for evolutionary medicine

2) Primatology - studies primates, but not humans

3) Paleoanthropology - from Greek words meaning 'study of ancient humans'

4) Carl Linnaeus - first coined the term Homo sapiens

5) Forensic anthropologist - Dr. 'Bones' Brennan is one

6) Human behavioral ecology - optimal foraging theory is a subfield

7) Agoraphobia - the fear of open spaces

8) Charles Darwin - wrote Descent of Man

9) Homo sapiens - from the Latin for 'wise man'

10) HMS Beagle - Darwin's ship

11) John Maynard Smith - wrote Animal Signals

12) Diseases of affluence - ailments attributed to civilization

13) Lucy - famous skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974

14) Biological anthropology - also known as physical anthropology

15) Sherwood Washburn - advocated studying primates out in nature

  • Grade the worksheets as the students turn them in to you, and then recap all the correct answers with the entire class.
    • Lastly, does anyone have any final questions or comments?

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