This Threshold Today

Bridgette Byrd O’Connor
Big History Teacher, Louisiana, USA

Big History Project offers a ton of activities to engage students in the classroom. Students attempt to predict the lifecycle of a star or the steps in human evolution in order to get their brains working at the start of class. They delve into the mysteries of history by trying to read and analyze artifacts as an archaeologist or anthropologist would. In This Threshold Today activities, students search for current event articles that tie to Big History threshold moments, which helps to make their learning more relevant to their world today.

As I’m sure most of you already know, these activities come with a short list of articles that could be used but I find that having students search for the articles themselves is a better strategy. By doing this, it allows students to use their claim testing skills to search for reliable websites and test the information in the article to see if it makes sense to them and build upon what they’ve already learned. I also make sure that students not only provide the source information and a summary of the article that ties back to the threshold but they also have to explain how they used the claim testers and their knowledge from the unit to analyze the article.

Last year I shared an article on Yammer that I thought would be useful for This Threshold in Unit 3 (however, it could also be a really great article to include in a debate in Unit 10 as well). The article, Experts Skeptical Of Lockheed Martin’s ‘Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough’, was about Lockheed Martin’s attempt to recreate nuclear fusion at the core of a star in a small magnetic container in order to supply “infinite” power to humans. While this sounds like an amazing idea that could very well happen in the not so distant future, there were quite a few scientists who were skeptical of the announcement. Therefore, this article provides a link to the threshold as well as claim testing strategies. Students wrote about how they thought this might be a little far fetched considering you need to recreate temperatures above 10 million degrees Celsius to mimic nuclear fusion in the core of a star. And they questioned whether this really could be done in a small portable container. Considering how many news sites follow current scientific research and discoveries, there are a ton of articles to be found, which also means there is much claim testing to do!

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