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The short side of the family

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Information retrieval
Topic: Variation

A set of bones from an isolated island in Indonesia has stunned archaeologists. They belong to a completely new species of human, Homo floriensis. These primitive humans were very small - only a metre high - so they've been nicknamed Hobbits. They didn't look like Hobbits though. Their heads were tiny. The preserved skeleton isn't very old, so the new species must have shared our planet. Modern islanders have legends about tiny forest dwellers - the Ebu Gogo. Could the legends be true? Might the new species still exist, deep in the forest? Pupils examine the fossil evidence and deduce what they can about these miniature humans.

Published: 18th January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 8

Learning objectives

Pupils should use the fossil evidence to deduce something about the habitat, appearance, food and intelligence of the newly discovered human species.

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Investigative skills: Considering evidence
Draw conclusions from observations and use scientific knowledge and understanding to explain them.

Running the activity

Timing: starter - 5 minutes; main 15 minutes; plenary 10 minutes

Suggested starter activity - Project page 1 which sets the scene. Pupils should consider how they feel about our close ancestors sharing the planet with another species of human. Homo floriensis is the 10th species of human to be identified in the fossil record. Most became extinct in ancient times. This species was still alive 18,000 years ago.

Main activity: Page 2 shows the fossil evidence for the new human species found on Flores. It needs to be projected, or photocopied for each group of students.
Page 3 sets the task and pupils should have a copy each. They need to brief the expedition team that is leaving for Flores. The team will be looking for remnants of the island's original inhabitants. They need to know what to look for and where to start looking. Pupils have to deduce as much as they can from the fossil evidence.

As an extension, pupils can consider why Homo floriensis may already be extinct.

Plenary: Students deductions can be compared with those made by the archaeologists involved in the project, which are given on page 4.

News links

Science Museum
An excellent summary of the discoveries on Flores which is presented as a series of well indexed series web pages with good illustrations.
Scientific American
An interview with the discoverer of the extinct dwarf species of human.
A discussion of the significance of the new discoveries on Flores.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Oct 10th, 2012

5 Star

An excellent and fun lesson, the pupils really enjoyed the debate


Reviewer: Zahid Butt

Great for App 5.3 and5.4

Mar 8th, 2012

5 Star

This activity worked really well with my top set year 9's. IThey were surprisingly enthusiastic! I had to provide them with paper to write on so that they inlcuded enough detail as the spaces on sheet 3 are too small. I linked it to App 5.3 and 4 analysing evidence.

Reviewer: Victoria Barnes


Jun 2nd, 2010

5 Star

My students enjoy stuff genetics especially this sort of activity. Has my class chatting and discussing concepts - Ta

Reviewer: Marianne Fernandes

The short side of the family review

Sep 5th, 2009

5 Star

Great activity!

Reviewer: Ursula Miles

how science works

May 19th, 2008

5 Star

year 9 class (mid ability) loved it. May need a bit more emphasis on drawing conclusions and setting the scene.

Reviewer: susan humphreys

The short side of the family review

Dec 4th, 2007

5 Star

I have tried this activity with two year 10 BESD boys as it ties in with the item B3 Extinction on the OCR entry level. We watched a video of scientists talking about the findings on Flores that I found on the internet. We then progressed with the activity. They were really interested and were happy to talk about what the evidence meant. It can be difficult to get these particular boys engaged in work that does not involve practicals but said that they really liked this activity.

Reviewer: Adele Neil

Ellen's mpments

Mar 6th, 2006

5 Star

a terrific application of moments, shows pupils there is so much mpre to moments than seesaws and crowbars.

Reviewer: william wilson

The Short Side of the Family

Jun 11th, 2005

4 Star

I tried this activity out with 2 different Yr 9 groups. The students were well engaged initially, though struggled a little with the higher level thinking required. Two main stumbling blocks that tripped up quite a few students in each group: the white-on-green text on the projected sheet 2 is very hard to see unless close up, and many of my students didn't know what the word 'charred' meant. As our lessons are an hour long, it was hard to stretch the activity out and keep them on task, so if I did it again I would show a short video of the Ebu Gogo first, or have a discussion on creationism vs evolution afterwards. The teachers notes were easy to follow and the prepared sheets really got the students attention. Overall, a very good and useful activity that i would use again.

Reviewer: Sherralyn Brown