Big History

What if history was taught at a scale of billions of years, rather than hundreds, and in a truly multi-disciplinary way? What if social studies began with the Big Bang and explored a scientific narrative in addition to the human one?

How it works: Big History is an alternative to history curricula that typically focus on the human experience. Instead, it’s based on a big picture understanding of time, natural phenomena, civilizations and interconnectedness. It centers the universe in its treatment of “history,” rather than the story of humankind. It’s truly multidisciplinary: it brings together perspectives from astronomy, archaeology, biology, anthropology, geology and more. While this type of course has been taught in universities for the past twenty years, Bill Gates recently launched the Big History Project to bring digital curriculum into 9th and 10th grade classrooms nationwide.

“We’re taking the best evidence from physics and the best evidence from chemistry and biology, and we’re weaving it together into a story. They’re not going to learn how to balance [chemical] equations, but they’re going to learn how the chemical elements came out of the death of stars, and that’s really interesting.”

– David Burzillo, a Big History teacher speaking with the Boston Globe in 2012

Why we love it: We don’t believe in discipline silos. While we respect that different disciplines represent different ways of thinking and interpreting the world, we think that the distinction between second period History and third period Science is an artificial one. Big History represents an attempt to overturn the idea that history is people and science is nature. In fact, they are tightly connected.

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