CONNECTING LOCAL WONDERS WITH BIG HISTORY

Hayden Brown, BHP Teacher
Western Australia, Australia

Broome Senior High School, with close to 900 students, is in Broome—the remote Kimberley region some 2,500 km (1,553 miles) north of Perth in Western Australia. We have been using the Big History Project as the curriculum for the Year 7 academic extension program since 2015. This past term, some of my BHP students were able to visit Cable Beach and attend a private stargazing event. Our night was hosted by Greg Quicke, of the incredible Australian television show Stargazing Live, and Dianne Appleby, of local company Nyamba Buru Yawuru (NBY), which represents the business and development interests of the Yawuru indigenous people. NBY is responsible for ensuring the ongoing survival and resilience of the Yawuru people’s cultural practices, Both presenters shared and honored their unique understanding of the stars as my students peered into the night sky. Within a single evening, we discussed origin stories, storytelling, cross-cultural perspectives, symbolism, and collective learning in both Western and Yawuru culture. Our discourse spanned several BHP thresholds, from Stars and Elements to collective learning and the Modern Revolution.

My students learned a lot at our stargazing extravaganza. They entered this evening with many questions: How will the two presenters work together? How will indigenous knowledge and Western science mesh with each other? During the stargazing event, students witnessed thoughtful presenters who modeled how to value and validate each other’s differing understandings of the Universe. Students left that night with a stronger knowledge about the night sky and how long it has been important to human understanding. Many connections were made both intellectually and culturally.

The evening wasn’t all work and no play. We witnessed the unexpected appearance of a “live” dinosaur on the beach! Just before sunset, an unidentified person in a homemade T. rex suit appeared on the beach for what seemed to be a one-man celebration of International Dinosaur Day. (It’s not quite as strange as it sounds—this area is home to the world’s largest collection of dinosaur footprints, which will be the focus of an upcoming BHP project for my students.) I don’t know if this “dinosaur sighting” detracts from the academic integrity of the evening, but it really started the night off in a fun way and we still have no idea who our dino guy was.

2-Dinousar image courtesy of Hayden Brown

Dino guy image courtesy of Hayden Brown

About the author: Hayden Brown has taught history/humanities since 2009. He began teaching Big History in 2015. Since then, Hayden’s love of Big History has inspired a second BHP extension class. Hayden now teaches two different BHP classes at Broome Senior High School, reaching about 45 indigenous and nonindigenous Australian students. He loves connecting universal BHP themes to local histories and events.

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