Bridgette Byrd O’Connor, BHP Teacher
Louisiana, USA

In September, I wrote about one of my favorite activities: Universe Comics. As comics are a recurring course activity, and many who teach Big History are somewhere around Unit 6 at this point in the school year, I thought it might be helpful to share how I approach the Evolution Comic activity from Lesson 6.0.

Excerpt from It’s Alive! Universe Verse Book 2, by James Lu Dunbar.

Evolution Comic asks students to chronologically detail, in a single-page comic book template, the evolution of human life. They’re asked to include seven specific evolutionary steps in their work: LUCA, plants and animals, primates, apes (hominoids), great apes (hominids), bipedal primates (hominines), and humans (Homo sapiens).

Of all the comic activities, this one tends to be the hardest one for students to wrap their heads around; there are multiple variations of primates, and distinguishing among them in drawings can be difficult. For most students, explaining the progression from LUCA to plants and animals, and then from plants and animals to primates is pretty easy. However, once they’re asked to become more specific in their comic regarding hominoids, hominids, hominines, and Homo sapiens, students’ questions and confusion begin. Considering the definitions of these terms have changed over the years, it can be helpful to point students to websites that shed light on the differences between these terms:

Students should be familiar with the assignment (as this is their third and final comic activity in the course), but it’s always good to reinforce your expectation that they provide explanatory text with their drawings. I also tell my students to be as creative as they can be with their comics; after all, they’re supposed to be informative and entertaining!
The comic activities are a great way to formatively assess your students’ understanding of course material. The evolution of humans is an important and sometimes perplexing topic. What better way to ensure students fully understand the significance of the concept—in the BHP story of the Universe as well as humanity’s place in it?

About the author: The 2016/17 school year marks Bridgette’s fifth teaching BHP as a semester-long history course. She teaches ninth and twelfth graders at Saint Scholastica Academy, a private school for girls. Bridgette teaches 120 students a year in three 90-minute sessions per day.

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