Chris Scaturo, BHP Teacher
New Jersey, USA
I grew up in a large Italian family. My grandparents were immigrants who raised 11 children through the Great Depression and WWII. The only thing they had a lot of was children. I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. My dad was a construction worker who was often out of work. Like the generation before us, we didn’t have much, except for a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. This might not seem relevant to the Big History Project and teaching, but bear with me, I’m getting there. I promise.
Every Sunday, we went to my Uncle George’s house for macaroni (we didn’t eat pasta, we ate macaroni!). The food triangle was different back then and 30 servings of carbohydrates were encouraged. Sundays, we tried to eat those 30 servings between 2 and 3 pm. I had a few uncles who usually succeeded. Now, we did more than eat at those family suppers. We talked, and we talked, and we talked. We talked with our hearts, our hands, and even (occasionally) with food in our mouths. There was a small amount of listening but there was so much talking that even if 10 percent of it was heard, that was a huge chunk.
When I first read Michelle Tigchelaar’s blog post on climate change and food production, my first thought was of Uncle George’s house. Not the baked ziti, but the conversations Michelle’s writing made we long for. I wanted to talk to my colleagues about how we can teach these issues across curricula. I wanted to talk to my students about extreme poverty, nutrition, and food production. I wanted to talk to Bob Bain about the multiple causes of any of the effects of the Holocene era. I wanted to talk to some history teachers about the relevance of John Malthus today. Most of all, I wanted to talk to my students about whatever this article makes them think about. I wanted—and still want—to have conversations about what is happening, why it’s happening, and what we can do.
I honestly believe that I view this article differently now than I would have six years ago when I first came across BHP. Thinking across fields of study and time periods, and looking for multiple causes to complex issues has changed how I facilitate discussion and learning in my classroom for the better. Michelle’s blog is an excellent model of how to begin these conversations. Thanks Big History Project, thanks Michelle Tigchelaar, and thanks Uncle George.
About the author: Chris has been teaching for nearly two decades, and has been teaching Big History since 2013. He teaches the course as a semester-long elective to middle-schoolers in Allentown, New Jersey.
Image credit: Photos courtesy Chris Scaturo.