Bob Regan
Big History Project Team


New Orleans, Louisiana montage” by Infrogmation (talk). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

The Big History Project had a terrific week in New Orleans at the National Council for the Social Studies. There was plenty of great food, amazing teachers and big ideas. We met hundreds of people from around the country and there was one consistent theme to our discussions. How can we bring the aspirations of the C3 to life in our classrooms and really help students learn?


Bob Bain from the University of Michigan, our partner and trusted advisor, gave a fantastic session titled, Why Big History, Why Now? that reviewed some of the enduring challenges of teaching history, including:

  • the problems in adolescent literacy,
  • the inequitable distribution of quality resources,
  • a tendency of schools to devolve into didactic teaching at the expense of engaged inquiry,
  • a failure to help students develop connections across the content and curriculum.

His talk reviews the importance of going ‘big’ to see the connections between the smaller histories we tend to cover in schools. More than that, putting inquiry at the center of the course encourages a deeper level of engagement and creates space to add a real emphasis on literacy in the course. Bob provided a synopsis of his talk here.


On Saturday, four of our teachers got together for a session reviewing some specific practices in the classroom and how to drive real inquiry on the part of their students. Each of these teachers brought in video from their classroom, as well as samples of student work and the activity from BHP to discuss. They were:

  • Scott Henstrand
    Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies – Brooklyn, NY
    Scott talked about helping students to develop better questions and question strategies using The Mystery Box activity.
  • Bridgette O’Connor
    Scholastica Academy – Covington, LA
    Bridgette presented Claim Testing as it applies to teaching reading and working with complex informational texts.
  • Jason Manning
    Oceanside High School – Oceanside, NY
    Jason discussed strategies for incorporating disciplinary practices within the What Do You Know, Who Do You Ask activity that asks students to draw upon the insights of an infinite variety of disciplines.
  • Todd Nussen
    Oceanside High School – Oceanside, NY
    Todd walked through the use of student-generated comics as a means of developing mental models of complex ideas and shaping pre-writing activities for students.

Look for blog posts from each of these teachers soon discussing their presentations.

It is great to be home, but we are already looking forward to our next opportunity to get together with teachers.


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