Students excel at one of Britain’s only human evolution societies

By Jill Dando News

A high-flying school-based sixth form is preparing students for the world’s best universities by running one of Britain’s only human evolution societies 

The Human Evolution Society is proving incredibly popular at the King Alfred School Academy in Highbridge, Somerset.

The society is run by a former palaeoanthropologist and is the only one of its kind in the UK that helps prepare A level students for a range of careers in top universities.

All the students complete an advanced course in human evolutionary anatomy that gives top-level preparation for careers such as medicine.

This year the Human Evolution Society student leaders are co-presidents Olivia Earthy, who is applying to read Medicine at Oxford, and Grace Huggins who is applying to read Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Cambridge. 

Pictured above, left to right, are Olivia and Grace, Human Evolution Society co-presidents, comparing the anatomy of ‘Lucy’ and a chimpanzee. Below Grace is pictured with the ‘Dikika Child’.

Olivia said: “Being a member of the Human Evolution Society is brilliant preparation for my Oxford application. 

“It offers me the chance to study so-called mismatch diseases – those preventable illnesses and ailments such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, back pain, anxiety, depression, obesity and flat feet were rare in our ancestors but more common today.

“These studies show how our bodies and anatomy are not well suited for modern environments where we are inactive for large parts of each day’. 

Other HES members include Amy Taylor (Earth Sciences), Eloise Hopkins-O’Driscoll (Archaeology), Erin Murray (Psychology), Millie Thomas (Biochemistry) and Dillon Xu Britton (Neuroscience) and they’re all benefiting from the interdisciplinary study of human evolution.

Students study museum-grade fossil hominin replicas from the last seven million years of evolutionary history, and conduct comparative anatomical analysis along with skeletons of modern humans and chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. 

Each student has a fossil replica to analyse before delivering a presentation to the group on their specimen’s evolutionary significance. 

So far this year students have focussed on the origins of bipedalism (upright walking) and the genus Australopithecus in particular, species of human ancestor that lived in East and South Africa from approximately 4.2 to 1 million years ago.

A highlight for many students was having the opportunity to study the fossil remains of the famous ‘Lucy’ skeleton, a 3.3 million year old skeleton belonging to Australopithecus afarensis,  which showed clear signs of bipedal walking in the anatomy of her pelvis.  

During the Spring and Summer, students will be studying the evolution of the genus Homo including the famous Neanderthals and the origins of modern humans in Africa before they migrated to settle in all continents on Earth.

The Human Evolution Society supports students to make competitive applications to the top UK universities.

TKASA is one of the fastest improving schools and sixth forms in the country.