Monte DeArmoun, Big History Teacher
Iowa, USA

Growing up, living, and teaching in rural in Iowa gives a person a respect for agriculture. It’s all around us. It drives our local economy. It helps pay property taxes to support our schools. Agriculture & Civilization, which is Unit 7 of Big History, is of particular interest to my students because it’s so relevant to what surrounds us.

Harvest time in Iowa. Photo by Tumbling Run. CC BY-NC-ND 2.

This Threshold Today kicks off Unit 7, as it does many other BHP units. It provides students an opportunity to read about current events directly related to where they are in the Big History course, and to view these events through their “BHP glasses.” As part of the activity, students apply the four claim testers (intuition, authority, logic, and evidence) to the articles they’ve been provided—a strategy learned in Unit 1 and reinforced throughout the course.

I ask my classes to take This Threshold Today an additional step. Typically, students are asked to select three articles from a given selection and identify the source, date of publication, and importance to the current BHP threshold. I invite students to find and summarize a fourth article, one not found in the given list. They enjoy the additional challenge, and I think it gets them in the habit of applying BHP’s frameworks beyond immediate course materials.

Students in history classes often say that historical events have little significance in today’s world. Not true—we’re here today because of those historical events. Reading current event articles related to BHP topics helps students see the connection between their personal experiences and the patterns of wider society, or what sociologist C. Wright Mills dubbed “sociological imagination.” This Threshold Today helps students see how they fit into the larger scheme of life—and that’s always relevant.

About the author: Monte teaches Big History as a year-long elective course to high school students in Northwood, Iowa. Monte has been teaching the course since 2012 and loves that it requires students to develop critical thinking skills.

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