Champagnat Catholic College Pagewood Biology students were ready when the HSC exam for the subject held questions about a new human ancestor species announced in 2015.
They had learnt about the recently unearthed Homo naledi fossil after printing a three-dimensional copy of the skull using files released by scientists from the Evolutionary Studies Institute in Johannesberg, South Africa.
While the model was not made to be full-size, Pagewood students were able to compare features between it and other species from the human evolutionary tree. Differences in teeth, brain size and the size of brow ridges were evident when compared to other fossils.
It feels like I’m teaching in the school of the future.
With new 3D printing technology and the free sharing of information online, it was less than a year between the announcement of Homo naledi and the Pagewood students’ classroom experiment.
Biology teacher Adrian Di Qual said that in the past, scientific discoveries would take decades to filter from researchers to the classroom.
“With technology like this, it feels like I’m teaching in the school of the future,” he said.
“I haven’t heard of any other school where students have seen these new discoveries so quickly. I expect my students to blitz the HSC questions on Homo naledi after they got to hold the fossil in their hands.”
Held on October 20, the Biology exam was the first on Day 6 of a 17-day HSC timetable.