MAYVILLE - It only took a minute and a half for a 9-year-old boy to change our understanding of our origins.
According to author Marc Aronson, on August 15, 2008, renowned paleoanthropologist Dr. Lee Berger and his then 9-year-old son, Matthew, were in a region of South Africa known as "The Cradle of Humankind" looking for fossils.
In one of the most explored areas of the region, Matthew found a rock that, upon further inspection, contained a skull within.
From left are Dr. Mary Ann Cappiello, literacy expert, educator and author; Dr. Marc Aronson, author of Skull in the Rock; Susan Bartle, school library system coordinator; Dr. Lee Berger, renowned paleoanthropologist.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
After finding several more remains in the surrounding area, it is believed a missing link in human ancestry has been discovered, a species that has been named Australopithecus sediba. The bones discovered by Berger have been dated as being nearly 2 million years old.
Dr. Aronson and Dr. Berger have teamed up to create a children's book about the discovery called "The Skull in the Rock."
"The book is intended to open a door for kids and let them know that there's a whole world out there waiting to happen," said Aronson. "And that's always been my focus in writing books for young readers, to have them get actively involved and let them know that they count and their interests count."
Dr. Berger insists that his reason for initially publishing his story for children is to get kids involved in science and discovery.
"I decided to do a children's book first because my son was involved intimately in the first discovery," said Berger. "A child was involved and actually instrumental in one of the biggest archaeological discoveries of the last century. And since then, kids around the world began to realize that they can participate in big science. While humans may have explored every square inch of this planet over the last 300 years, they haven't actually seen what they were walking on. That's the lesson, that there is always more to be found, and it's often found right in your own backyard."
On Friday, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES hosted a workshop for local school librarians and teachers called "Non-Fiction in the Common Core Classroom" at Mayville's Chautauqua Inn and Suites. The workshop centered around "The Skull in the Rock" and how the book, along with supplemental materials, can lead to other experiences and activities in school curriculum.
The workshop was organized by Susan Bartle, school library system coordinator at E2CC BOCES, who explained how it came about.
"I work with Marc Aronson on nonfiction in common core doing workshops around the state," said Bartle. "When he came to Jamestown in February, he mentioned that he had a new book coming out and wanted to launch it here. He also said he could bring this scientist and his son from South Africa who made this amazing discovery. We coordinated all summer long with National Geographic, who supported the program, and here we are."
Due to the ever-changing and fast-paced world of science, the students who will be reading "The Skull in the Rock" and its materials in the classroom setting will also have access to a website that will keep them updated on new discoveries regarding Australopithecus sediba as they happen. The website can be found at www.scimania.org.