WHAT DO PARENTS THINK OF BIG HISTORY?

Kathy Hays, BHP Teacher
Arizona, USA

Big History is a family adventure in my classroom. We include parents on BHP field trips, and invite them to evening engagements where students showcase their work from course activities like the Invent a Species and Little Big History project (more on that in this post). I recently became curious: What do parents think about this course?

hays-blog1-Summer 2016 009

Family field trip to ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. Photo courtesy Kathy Hays.

I asked the parents of six of my BHP students to describe their experience with the course. Three parents responded directly: one through email, and the other two while on a recent class hike. A fourth parent sent her son in to describe how Big History is a part of their weekly Sunday dinners.

All families agreed Big History prepared their students for AP classes (most of my students, who are ninth graders, enroll in AP human geography in tenth grade). Big History Unit Investigations and the emphasis on claim testing were mentioned as helping students to develop critical thinking skills. As one parent put it:

“Big History compels students to think, ponder, and imagine. These are characteristics that I deem as highly important for success in education and as a productive human being in society.”

Parents believe Big History brings to life very old subject matter and that the curriculum allows students to see how the history of the world is relevant to their lives. Students feel as if their opinions are accepted, which allows them to express themselves in class, bringing value to the learning environment because they are engaged in the learning process. They found the Invent a Species activity and the Little Big History project valuable because they provided students the opportunity to create work together, while applying the concepts they were learning in class. Each family mentioned how their children talked at length as these project evolved and were genuinely excited about the work. Our presentation evenings were a highlight for families.

My favorite story about a family’s Big History experience involves Sunday family dinner. Big History came to dominate the discussion, and Grandma even went online to take the course so she could be involved in the conversations.  Grandma did not agree with a lot of the concepts taught in Big History, but thought it was fascinating. She even took all the grandchildren on her own Big History field trip to Lowell Observatory when she was studying Unit Four.

It seems as if parents do want to be involved in their children’s education, but as students get older, the welcome door is not always open. Big History provides the opportunity for parents and students to connect, while developing critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime.

About the author: Kathy Hays has been teaching for 30 years, and teaching Big History since 2015. She teaches five BHP classes a year, and so reaches about 130 ninth-grade students. Her school is on a semester schedule with daily 52-minute periods. Kathy’s favorite thing about teaching Big History is the opportunity to learn with her students!

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