School Practice I - Big History Project and Big History School

Big History as a separate subject


Big History Project (BHP) - teachers become lead learners!

While the core of the following information is taken from the BHP website, it has been adapted to the context in Germany

The starting point is:

WE ARE ALL CURIOUS, CREATIVE AND CONNECTED

BHP is a comprehensive social studies curriculum for middle and upper secondary school students that goes beyond the mere teaching of facts and aims to develop skills. Specifically, it develops a set of intellectual tools that help students to think critically and argue soundly, while practicing these skills across subjects. In this way, students learn to make connections between past, present and future.

The course takes a broad view of the world and helps students to develop a framework to organize what they learn in and out of school. After completing the Big History class, students will have a better understanding of how we got here, where we are going and how they themselves fit into this picture. The world today is a place that has been in the making for 13.8 billion years.

The project went online in 2012 and since then data has been collected to demonstrate the impact of Big History on literacy and the ability to recall knowledge content.

The material is divided into ten lessons and is based on the thresholds of increasing complexity identified by David Christian. It is available online free of charge and is regularly evaluated and updated. It can therefore be adapted by teachers to their specific situation. In other words, they can choose what they think is most suitable for their students from the entire material. More than 1,600 teachers now teach the course each year and more than 80,000 students take part in it.

There are sample curricula on the website.

Teacher training (PD) is also online and freely available. Teachers can simply register on the website and view the material. There is also a teachers' community that provides quick help with tips and tricks for any questions. So you are not alone if you want to use Big History in your own school.


BHP in the Netherlands:

The Roland A. Holst College in Hilversum (near Amsterdam) took part in the BHP pilot project and the two teachers Constance van Hall and Joris Burmeister have been teaching the course enthusiastically ever since, as I experienced during my visit in February 2018. Constance van Hall has even written a textbook in Dutch for it. The English language materials (texts and videos) of the BHP are used in the lessons, but otherwise the lessons are mostly held in Dutch. This is another example of how bilingual subject teaching can look like, and by the way, it increases the motivation for the actual English lessons, because students have to use it. After I was allowed to attend one lesson of Big History, students have confirmed in conversation that Big History is a subject that teaches them school makes sense and they can apply what they learn in one subject to others.


Big History School (BHS) - as described on the website

Big History School was developed by the Big History Institute at Macquarie University in Sydney based on the experience of the Big History Project. It goes one step further and offers three different curricula.

Junior - for school children from 8 - 12 years and comprising 50 lessons, is a curriculum for the introduction of Big History already in primary school. Here, project-based learning is used to encourage critical and creative thinking. The students embark on an exciting 4-stage Mars mission.

Core - main part - for students aged 12-16 years and comprising 200 hours of lessons is roughly the same as the Big History Project without the agony of having to choose from several texts and videos. This curriculum also includes 10 lessons and also aims to develop critical thinking skills, the ability to test claims and develop sound reasoning. Here too, knowledge is combined across disciplines.

Senior -  for students aged 16-18 years and comprising 10 lessons. In 5 lectures the students' ability to think about global challenges and to discuss them in class by asking questions will be developed.

This website is also freely accessible, teachers can simply register and view the material.