Scott Collins, BHP Teacher
The Big History narrative describes an incredible story. It traces the entirety of the Universe as it increases in complexity over a daunting 13.8 billion years. While navigating through this convoluted tale, it can be easy to lose your place in the scope of time or even space. It’s for that reason that I try to always have a point of reference to which the students and I can retreat, perhaps regroup, and take stock in the journey up to that point. That reference point for me is the Big History Timeline Infographic.
This infographic, in my opinion, is the crown jewel of the entire course. The amount of information that it houses is quite astounding. I love to check in on the infographic periodically throughout the course to monitor our progress through time and to ensure that the students truly grasp the scale of the Big History narrative.
Timeline Review, the opening activity from Lesson 10.0, asks students to review the infographic in all its glory, and choose the four most important events contained within it. There is one caveat: when choosing events, students mustn’t select any of the already-established thresholds within the course. They’ll need to sift through other major milestones along the Universe’s path toward increasing complexity and tease out four “second tier” thresholds. During discussion of this second tier, you’ll find many consistencies in what they share, but you’ll also be surprised by some of the other choices that they call out, as well as the rationales behind their choices.
It’s extremely interesting to me the value that different students place on various occurrences within the Big History narrative. Routinely, several events that I consider less significant are brought to the discussion and the student rationales make me question my stance. This is one of my favorite aspects of the activity. The discussions that emerge from Timeline Review really drive home for students the immense scope and scale of the course.
About the author: Scott Collins is a high school science teacher in Lemont, IL. In addition to BHP, he teaches AP biology, honors biology, and integrated science. His school is on a semester system. Scott’s eleventh- and twelfth-grade BHP classes run about 85 minutes long and focus heavily on the science content. About 60 students per year join him on the 13.8-billion-year journey.