World Explorers: Mini Project, Maximum Thinking

Jenny Holloway, BHP Teacher
Washington, USA

Our Big History team at Mount Si High School created the Lesson 8.1 Explorers Mini Project out of desperation. With so many explorers, how could we teach them all without subjecting students to “death by PowerPoint”? Our solution was this project, which has since been added to the BHP curriculum.

The Explorers Mini Project asks students to research, from a given list, an explorer responsible for connecting two world zones. They must answer questions related to their explorer’s motivations, accomplishments, and contribution to collective learning. In true BHP form, students are also asked to identify evidence that contributes to our current knowledge: what was left behind that allows us to trace their explorer’s journey?

What’s great about this activity is that it forces students to think outside the box—as they assess, for example, how their explorers contributed to collective learning. This question is a welcome challenge for most, as it encourages thinking beyond obvious facts and prods students to make connections between their explorer’s achievements and how they contributed to phenomena like globalization. Even though students struggle with answering the higher-level questions connected to the BHP themes, I think the process is healthy and worth it!

This mini project bridges BHP themes and world history nicely. Your students may need extra guidance as they engage in research, and some encouragement to think outside the box. I’m happy to offer extra support and share the unique twist we add on at Mount Si—just tag me in a post in the BHP Online Teacher Community!

About the author: Jenny Holloway is in her fifth year teaching history at her current high school in Mount Si, WA. She teaches 2–5 classes per day of the year-long BHP course to about 30 ninth- and eleventh-grade students.

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