‘Origins’ Card Game Teaches Basics Of Human Evolution

Aug 12, 2016

By Kristina Killgrove

Everyone on the planet, it seems, is still swept up in Pokémon GO. Part of the game play involves “evolving” your Pokémon into something new. This is not, of course, how evolution actually works — but as a game, Pokémon doesn’t really need to be factually correct.  If you are in the market for a game that actually teaches you or your students about evolution, though, look no further: W.W. Norton has put out a card game called Origins created by three anthropologists.

Origins is the brain child of biological anthropologists Mindy Pitre (St. Lawrence University) and Nicole Burt (Cleveland Museum of Natural History), whose extensive teaching and outreach experience is combined with the work of Holly Hunold, a medical illustrator also trained in anthropology. Pitre and Burt told me that the impetus for the game was “how we have seen students struggle to understand core concepts of evolution and, as a result, have poor learning outcomes.” Creating a card game is their way of “supporting students and helping them learn evolution in a fun and exciting way.” Each card, as well as the box, is lushly illustrated by Hunold, whose handiwork can be seen in the images in this post.

Gameplay is relatively simple, and in some ways akin to how the board game Cranium works. Students work individually or in groups to answer questions on cards that are color-coded into different topics, including Being Human, Origins & Transitions, Primates, Evolution & Variation, Genetics and Fundamentals. An instructor can read the cards and pose the questions to students, adding up points per student or team.


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