ADVENTURES OF THE PRIMORDIAL ATOM: MY VERSION OF THE BHP COMIC STRIP EXERCISE

Conrad Pitcher
Big History Teacher, 9th-10th grade
Boston, MA

In two different lessons, Big History includes an activity where students make their own comic strip to help them understand a complicated sequence of events. By breaking down the Big Bang or evolution into a series of steps they construct themselves, students have an easier time understanding and remembering it later.

I used the unit 3 activity, Star Comics, as a starting point for my own version of that activity for unit 2. I call it, “Adventures of the Primordial Atom.” In addition to the materials from the Big History Project, we draw upon chapters from Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and Neil Shubin’s “The Universe Within.” Students then use two iPad apps—Comic Maker and Skitch—to produce digital versions of their comics.

Activity Overview
I particularly like how this activity reinforces the concept of scale of the Big Bang for the students. The Big Bang happened so fast, it’s nearly impossible to conceptualize how little time is passing. The first three or four frames of the comic typically represent things that happened instantaneously. This is a challenging point for students, but an important lesson.

This activity pushes students to pull together both scientific and historical evidence, and gets them synthesizing them together. David Christian, Bill Bryson and Neil Shubin’s work complement each other really well here, but they have different areas of emphasis, which the students need to reconcile into a coherent story.

This activity took three days total—two homework days and one class day. Students worked in groups of two. If your students don’t have access to iPads, the comic templates can easily be recreated and filled out by hand.

Click here to see one student group’s Big Bang comic.

As always, feel free to contact me via the BHP Teacher Community if you have any questions or want to share resources!

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