Angelina Kreger, BHP Teacher
The Little Big History (LBH) project is the culminating learning event of the Big History course. This opportunity allows students to investigate the history of an item or commodity through multiple thresholds and various disciplines. The LBH project engages students in doing the work of a historian, instead of simply reading about it. The seniors that I teach claim that this is the most difficult yet most rewarding project of their academic career. However, getting started isn’t always easy.
The most important part of the LBH project is choosing a focus. Students feel overwhelmed when given the option to choose “anything they want.” Big History helps them narrow their ideas in the Lesson 6.3 activity Little Big History—Choosing Your Focus. By this time, students have jotted down several potential topics. My students have chosen topics that range from lip gloss to potato chips to the trumpet. When the world of possibilities is endless, Lesson 6.3 helps shine a light on the most viable topics for students.
In the activity, learners are asked to assume the role of someone in a discipline: archaeologist, anthropologist, geographer, geologist, or any others that have been discussed in class or during the Historos Cave activity in Lesson 6.1. I have the students write up to three of their potential LBH topics on large pieces of paper placed around the room. They then draw the name of a specific discipline out of a bowl. (These are disciplines that we’ve covered up to this point in the course.) Students then go around the room, and through the lens of the discipline they’ve drawn, write questions that represent possible avenues for investigation for each topic. One question a student asked as she was assuming the role of anthropologist was, “What evidence is there that early humans were interested in songs or music?” This gave the trumpet group a great place to start their research. After students question the possible topics, they go back and collect their individual posters. After reviewing the questions that were asked by their classmates, they choose the one topic (of their original three) that has the most viable investigation questions. Before wrapping up the activity, students copy down the questions their classmates wrote on their poster for later research.
I think this approach helps students focus their research and provides them with preliminary feedback on how viable their LBH topics-of-interest may be. Moreover, students see firsthand the power of collective learning! Even though LBH project is a complex task, like other Big History projects it’s is scaffolded throughout the course, which ensures that everyone can experience success and achieve the activities’ goals.
About the author: Angelina Kreger is a veteran high school history teacher and instructional coach in Novi, MI. She has five years’ experience teaching Big History to twelfth graders in a semester-long format.