The Opposable Thumb As A Human Adaptation : Thumb-Taping Lab
In this biology activity, students will first brainstorm and observe how humans use their hands. They will then conduct a short experiment to determine the importance of the opposable thumb to humans. This experiment involves students taping their thumb to render it useless while they proceed to do an everyday activity. In the end students will have the opportunity to reflect on why the opposable thumb is an adaptation important to humans.
Context for Use
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Description and Teaching Materials
1. Divide students into small groups. They should brainstorm ideas about how humans use their hands versus other animals and especially other primates.
2. Discuss as a class their ideas. Create a class discussion summary on the board or overhead. The term "fully opposable thumbs" should be introduced if it hasn't already.
3. Next they will test a question. This will also allow them to experience the use of their own thumbs, possibly something they never think about, as well as appreciate the shape and design of their own hands.
Question: " Can I tie my shoes faster with or without my thumbs?"
Students should write a lab report that will contain information similar to the following.
TITLE / QUESTION: "Can I tie my shoes faster with or without my thumbs?"
MATERIALS: masking tape, timer or clock, shoe with laces
1. Put students into groups of two. Collect baseline data by having each student tie their shoe while being timed by a partner. This should be done three times to get an average time. Students should put their data in data table in their lab book.
2. Next, using masking tape, tape the thumb down on each hand. For best results, a partner can tape it to the pointer finger to render it useless.
3. Repeat step 1 with the thumbs taped. (NOTE: It is important to follow the same procedure as done in step 1 so that data is consistent.)
4. Have students average their data.
5. Contribute data averages to a class chart.
6. After viewing/discussing the class data, write a conclusion.
1. What is special about the hand of humans?
2. The design of the human hand is an adaptation. How does our hand's design allow us to do so many tasks such as writing, texting, and tying shoes?