Bridgette Byrd O’Connor, BHP Teacher
Louisiana, USA

What is our place within this vast Universe? How can we make the world a better place? These are two questions at the heart of Big History. Two activities that address these questions are Lesson 10.1’s Visions of the Future and Lesson 10.2’s The Future of Our Planet. They help students realize a current problem in the world might get worse if their generation doesn’t act to solve  it.

The setting Sun from the International Space Station. Credit: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. Public domain.

In the beginning of the course, students choose a current problem the world is facing and try to imagine what the consequences would be if this problem continued for another 25 years and then another 100 years. Then, at the end of the course, they attempt to find solutions to that problem. As students work in groups to help solve this problem, they brainstorm solutions and come up with a plan to either eliminate the issue altogether or curb the problem.

A big part of student formation  at our school is community service, with each student required to complete at least 20 hours per year. As I’m sure many schools have similar programs, this activity would fit well with organizing a service learning project for your students’ local community, the state, country, or the entire world.

Although students might begin to think that their place in the Universe is incredibly small when compared to the 13.8-billion-year history they’ve just studied, it is extremely important to teach them that they can make a difference. They can change the world for the better, and by coming up with a plan of action in this activity, perhaps they’ll be encouraged to follow through on their vision of the future.

About the author: Bridgette has been teaching BHP as a semester-long history course since 2012. 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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