Todd Nussen
BHP Teacher, New York, USA

About the author: Todd Nussen has been teaching world history for 10 years at Oceanside High School in New York. His schedule includes two ninth-grade BHP classes. Each 40-minute class has about 60 students.

081716-blogIt’s a challenge to get through 13.8 billion years of history plus the BHP World History extension in one school year. I’ve got to be on it when school starts. Step-by-step planning is everything.

I start with the BHP World History Course Plan template, look at the individual units, and fit them into our school calendar along with other state-mandated requirements. Although this exercise did take some time the first year I taught BHP, every year it’s a little less work, and it always pays off. Here are highlights from my BHP World course plan:

Unit 1: What Is Big History? These lessons are crucial to understanding the major themes of BHP and get kids excited about a new approach to learning. Big History on a Football Field is a must-do. Don’t even think about skipping Unit 1.

Units 2, 3, and 4: The Big Bang, Stars & Elements, Our Solar System & Earth. Science! My version of BHP has to cover global history and geography so we only get six to eight weeks for these three units. To make the most of every minute, I use the videos and activities to present recurring course concepts like claim testing and ingredients, Goldilocks Conditions, and thresholds. Some favorites include the H2 History Channel videos, the Life of a Star activity, and the Is It in There? opening exercise. Lesson 4.0 on accretion might be intimidating, but it’s hands-on and an opportunity to learn with your students. They love this.

Unit 5: Life. Start this unit with How Closely Related Are We?, an activity that gets students hooked. I cover a lot of the biology content with the Mini-Thresholds of Life video. “Darwin, Evolution, and Faith” is a fun read that sparks discussion.

Unit 6: Early Humans. We’re just getting to human history! By now, kids have developed the skills to tear into the world history content. Early Ancestors Image Sort is a great way to start. Take time to dig into collective learning—it’s what fueled human history and the concept drives the rest of the course.

Unit 7: Agriculture & Civilization. Bob Bain refers to scholar Emmanuel Le Roy’s idea of either truffle hunting for history or parachuting over it. After parachuting over Units 2 through 6, we commence truffle hunting. Unit 7 covers the Neolithic Age, first civilizations, and Eurasian classical civilizations. It also includes the BHP Investigation my students find the most fascinating: Was farming an advantage over foraging? I use this Investigation as my midterm exam.

Unit 8: Expansion & Interconnection. At this point in the year, I have some state-mandated material to cover. Then, we get into Unit 8’s lessons on the motivations for exploration. Don’t miss activities on the Columbian Exchange and leveled articles on the Silk Road; they’re important for the Little Big History projects.

Unit 9: Acceleration. Unit 9 summarizes our entire tenth-grade curriculum, which makes it a great introduction for the ninth graders.

Unit 10: The Future. We get to use what we’ve learned about the past and the skills we’ve developed to examine history and make some predictions about the future. Then, we wrap up with the Little Big History Project presentations.

Do you teach at a public school in New York? You might want to follow this BHP course plan, using it to replace your ninth-grade curriculum. Your students will still be prepared for the global history and geography Regents Exam.


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