Regular readers know I’m a sucker for attractive, thought-provoking videos. I just found this one, called Thousands of Years of Human Migration in Five Minutes. When I saw the title I expected to see humanity spreading across a map of the continents like paint, but that’s not what the video shows. Instead, it compiles the birth and death dates and locations for specific people — LOTS of them. The result is an informative progression that reveals much about the history of the Western world.
A history video is not an obvious choice for introductory biology, but stay with me. As I watched the video, it occurred to me that it has a lot of hidden content related to our classes. Students can watch the video and brainstorm ways that the migration patterns are relevant to science and technology, evolution, general biology, environmental quality, and social issues.
Before you read on, have a look at the video …
Have you watched it? All right, keep reading …
I tried my proposed activity by myself (it’s too early in August to have any student “guinea pigs” yet!) and here’s the list I came up with.
Science and technology:
- Sampling error (the video focuses mostly on western Europe and North America, because it’s based on “notable people” from a Western perspective)
- Role of technology in ease of migration (e.g. progression from boats to trains to cars)
- Genetic drift (e.g. founder effect) as a possible consequence of migration
- Mixing of alleles from previously isolated human subpopulations
- Importance of climate (e.g. fewer people migrated to Scandinavia than to more moderate latitudes; lots of people retire to Florida)
- Uneven distribution of populations (with the exception of the actual west coast, the western region of the US remains far less populated than the east)
- Demographics (e.g. balance of births/deaths/retirement migration by region, e.g. East coast, west coast, Florida)
- Water as a requirement for life (most settlement occurred in river valleys)
- The “path of destruction” that follows the spread of humanity (e.g. cities and farms obliterating existing habitat, increased demand for energy and resources)
- Competition for space and other resources between our species and other species
- Loss of biodiversity related to human activities
- Role of wealth/ability to travel in determining who actually migrated and how far they went
- Role of economic opportunity and war in determining where people migrated and settled
- Competition for space and other resources between settlers and indigenous people
Students should be able to discover some of the ideas on their own, and they may think of others with some prompting.
Now that you’ve watched the video, do you have anything to add to my list? If so, please leave a comment!