Teaching Big History

Teaching Big History

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0520283554

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Big History is a new field on a grand scale: it tells the story of the universe over time through a diverse range of disciplines that spans cosmology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and archaeology, thereby reconciling traditional human history with environmental geography and natural history.

Weaving the myriad threads of evidence-based human knowledge into a master narrative that stretches from the beginning of the universe to the present, the Big History framework helps students make sense of their studies in all disciplines by illuminating the structures that underlie the universe and the connections among them.

Teaching Big History is a powerful analytic and pedagogical resource, and serves as a comprehensive guide for teaching Big History, as well for sharing ideas about the subject and planning a curriculum around it. Readers are also given helpful advice about the administrative and organizational challenges of instituting a general education program constructed around Big History. The book includes teaching materials, examples, and detailed sample exercises.

This book is also an engaging first-hand account of how a group of professors built an entire Big History general education curriculum for first-year students, demonstrating how this thoughtful integration of disciplines exemplifies liberal education at its best and illustrating how teaching and learning this incredible story can be transformative for professors and students alike.












Big History to the university and to high school students, and the program’s contribution to the combined study of the sciences and humanities. We have learned a lot from our colleagues. We hope you will, too. THE BIG HISTORY PROJECT: BILL GATES’S FAVORITE COURSE Mojgan Behmand PROGRAM ORIGIN Innovative Big History programs seem to begin with individuals’ unique and amusing Big History stories. I find it enjoyable to imagine David Christian in a curriculum meeting with his colleagues at

electromagnetic energy.”3 The universe existed in this state for about 380,000 years, after which time it cooled enough (to a temperature similar to that of the surface of Earth’s sun) that previously heat-jostled protons, neutrons, and electrons could succumb to electromagnetism and nuclear forces and begin to bind together and form atoms of hydrogen and helium. The resulting net neutral charge released the photons from the other particles’ electromagnetic grip, resulting in a “huge flash” of

skull: Is the forehead relatively HIGH, MEDIUM, or LOW? Prognathism, or “snout”: the protrusion of parts of the face below the eyes (as on a dog) Question to ask for each skull: Is the “snout” LARGE, SMALL, or ABSENT? FIGURE 12.1 Skull #4 (example). Sagittal crest: the bony ridge along the top of the skull Question to ask for each skull: Is the crest LARGE, SMALL, or ABSENT? Supraorbital browridge: the bony ridge protruding above the eyes Questions to ask for each skull: 1.Is the ridge

information (and therefore innovations) globally, which Christian, in Maps of Time, calls “diffusion” and has compared to an atomic chain reaction. So while the period from 1000 to 1700 was not marked by extraordinary technological innovations, human civilization seems to have been suiting up for the next era: connecting, through complex networks of exchange, agrarian civilization–based world zones that had lain isolated for millennia. This convergence was aided by (and inspired) improvements,

outcome of the Industrial Age. To that, we might add humans’ increasing effect on the atmosphere, the oceans, and the very rocks. The big question now appears to be whether humans will act with urgency to decouple our ravenous energy appetites from the carbon atom. We are linked together in real time, and digital technology has proved a potent democratizing force. Will our ever-more empathetic, interconnected digital civilization act to stave off the worst of climate change, before the climate

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