HOW I’M PREPARING FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR

Chris Scaturo
BHP Teacher, New Jersey, USA

About the author: Chris Scaturo is starting his fourth year teaching BHP to seventh graders. His class spans two consecutive semesters and typically includes around 15 kids. The class period lasts about 40 minutes.

I think it was the great American philosopher William Smith who said, “Summer, summer, summertime, time to sit back and unwind.” It’s hard to argue with the Fresh Prince and his cohort Jazzy Jeff: The summer is simply awesome, and it’s possible to remain unwound and still be productive during the last weeks before school begins. I’m getting ready for school in three ways: reading, talking, and organizing.

Reading (or, how to do something interesting while claiming it’s work)

I probably read 10 times as many words in the 10 weeks of summer vacation as I do during the entire school year. No matter what you read, you can tie it back to the BHP curriculum! Just yesterday, I read:

  • An article on how reintroducing cougars to the East Coast could save billions of dollars. What a great example of how we can consciously interact with our ecosystem, manipulating the food chain in order to restore the balance that we’ve disturbed. Great discussion possibilities for Unit 5 (Life) or Unit 7 (Agriculture & Civilization).

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    Cougar cub Inego takes a bite of a leaf in his new environment at Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton, NJ. Photo: Joe Warner for NJ Advance Media

  • World’s Finest Comics, No. 184 (May 1969), in which an alternative origin story for Batman’s sidekick, Robin, is offered. Origin stories are relevant on a micro scale too! (Spoiler alert: Batman doesn’t really die.)
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Worlds Finest Comics #184 Robin’s Revenge! 1969

  • An article discussing height as a marker for a nation state’s health status. I’m thinking this will get a conversation going when we get to Unit 9 (Acceleration) or Unit 10 (The Future). I might even use it earlier on, when we talk about evolution in Unit 5.
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The world’s shortest man, Chandra Bahadur Dangi (left), meets the world’s tallest man, Sultan Kosen, for the first time in London, England, in 2014. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Looking for ideas on what to read? Chris Steussy has a list of books that BHP teachers have recommended; newsela.com has a large collection of articles; and the science section of Google News is my go-to source for random articles about things I didn’t even know I wanted to know.

Talking (or, as my dad says, “the stuff you do before you do”)

I’ll talk to anyone I can about BHP. I talked to a couple of physicists recently about the second law of thermodynamics and the value of thumbs (that was fun). I talk to educators. I spread the word of Big History any way I can. And of course, I talk to the BHP Teacher Community on Yammer, where I always find discussions, useful information, and supportive feedback.

Organizing (taking the interesting and making it learnable)

My real work over the next few weeks will be to take a long look at the BHP website and decide what we have to cover, what we might cover, and what the kids are going to cover on their own. I’m going through all the lesson outcomes and putting them in a document for the students. I plan to make the hard decisions about what to focus on for the first couple of units, and then open it up to the kids for Unit 3.

I have four more weeks to work on all this. My sincere apologies to those of you measuring your summer vacations in days, not weeks. If anyone is in the greater Barnegat Light area, I’ll happily discuss any or all of this with some sand between our toes.

Check out the template Chris used for his course planning.

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