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Explore Big History Content

Throughout Big History students interpret and synthesize shifting scales in space and time – from vast galaxies to infinitesimal quarks, from billions of years to picoseconds. This Compressed Timeline of the Universe exemplifies the tools used to help students think at differing scales. By adjusting the history of the Universe to the scale of one year, students get a sense for the magnitude of this 13.7 billion year history and the significance of our place on this epic timeline. Students will create adjusted timelines of their own, applying knowledge of scale to their lives and to Big History concepts and themes.

Timeline

Why We're All Lava Surfers takes students on an international adventure exploring plate tectonics in action. Students learn alongside Outdoor Adventure Writer Peter Stark, as he journeys through the ‘fire and ice’ of Iceland, stares into the center of the Earth atop an Indonesian volcano, and traverses the boiling geysers of Yellowstone. These and other geological phenomena provide a first-hand account of how the Earth’s crust is continuously ‘surfing’ across its molten interior. This dynamic article awakens students’ own sense of adventure, as they see that local geography can become an exciting geological story.

Lava surfers

The Life Cycle of a Star infographic exemplifies the purposeful and stunning data-driven imagery that is embedded throughout Big History. This beautiful resource captures students’ attention and creatively engages them with complex content in an accessible way. Students interpret and analyze data to learn how stars go through birth and life cycles, eventually fading into space. They will compare and contrast the properties and cycles of low mass and high mass stars, applying knowledge of scale and sequence. This and other impressive data resources can be implemented in a variety of ways, allowing teachers to target the unique learning styles of their students. Explore the infographic.

Life cycle of a star

Big History utilizes online activities and resources to encourage student navigation and understanding of online information. In this activity, students use Gapminder to assess data about global development from the Industrial Revolution, to today. They examine correlations between money and health, and discuss causes of sudden bounces in life expectancy. Students not only interpret and apply data to make claims about past and current events, they learn to use and manipulate powerful online tools such as Gapminder.

Gapminder

Mapping Agrarian Societies is an interactive activity that provokes students to think about why certain civilizations emerged and what factors proved critical to the development and stability of these societies. Utilizing complex texts, independent research, and the process of critical inquiry, students illustrate the sites and events of early civilizations, including geographic features, human habitation, farming, and eventual collapse. Students then use evidence to explain why civilizations emerged in some areas of the world but not others. Finally, predictions are made as to what the future of farming and civilization will look like years from now.

Agrarian civilizations

The Iroquois creation myth of The Great Turtle is one of several origin stories that students read throughout Big History. Everywhere around the world people tell stories about how the Universe began and how humans came into being; scholars call these origin stories. Students read and discuss these captivating tales as they think about how scientific and historical discoveries have come together to make a modern origin story. They then apply this concept to create an origin story of their own, tracing their life back to the beginning of time.

Origin story

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