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Unit 1

What is Big History?


What is Big History?

(This is part of the Big History Project Program)


Allison Bruning 


History, Science, Reading and Writing



10 - 17 years old




Session 1: History As A Mystery


Students will define adapt, ancestor, century, challenge, complex, creation, creature, goddess, history, human, origin, scientific, universe and version. 

Students will contrast how learning history from a book is different from being an historian. 

Students will describe how researchers from different disciplines work together to create an accurate version of history. 

Students will examine how researchers work together to solve "The Mystery of the Headless Romans" (Note: We will only watch content from 3:52 to 18:5. Students are more than welcome to watch the entire video at home after class.)

Students will read "It Was America's First English Colony. Then It Was Gone" ,discuss which researchers they would assign to solve the mystery of Roanoke Island.

Students will learn how to use Three Close Reads. We will be using this technique whenever we examine articles in this class. 


Easter Island Mystery activity. 

Session 2: What Is Big History


Students will watch and discuss "What is Big History?", "A Big History of Everything" and "Crash Course Big History"

Students will identify the eight thresholds in the Big History Projects. 

Students will summarize the relationship between the eight thresholds and Big History. 

Students will explain how different academic disciplines interact to create an in depth look at the history of earth.

Students will complete the Big History Website Scavenger Hunt. 


Threshold Research Project


Session 3: Investigation 0


Investigation 0 is the baseline writing assessment for the Big History Project course. The assessment provides an in depth look at the students writing ability. We will be working on our writing skills throughout the Big History Project. The periodic investigations will help parents, teacher and student determine the growth in the student's writing abilities. The assessment will not be used towards a grade nor will anyone judge the student.


Bring string, beads and a ruler with you to the next class. 

Session 4: Scale


Students will view the beginning of "Contact" the movie to see how far radio transmissions have traveled in our solar system.

Students will define scale and how scientist use scale to represent distances. 

Students will watch and discuss "What is Dust Made Of", "To Scale: Our Solar System" and "Earth's Entire History Visualized on a Football Field."

Students will identify each planet, the type of planet, their size and distance to the sun in our solar system. 

Students will create a model of the solar system to scale using string, beads and a ruler.

Students will define what an astronomical unit (AU) is and how scientist use it. 

Students will examine "If the Moon Was a Pixel" website and devise their own scale for measuring our solar system. 


1) Review "If the Moon Was a Pixel" website.

2) Use the National Geographic Stepping Out of the Solar System worksheet we started in class, create an interesting way for you to show the important events that have occurred in Earth's history. You can use anything you want to show the scale of earth's history just make certain the scale is accurate. Video tape or take a picture of your project. Be ready to share your project with the class in the next session. 

Session 5: Vocabulary and Driving Questions

NOTE: Every Big History Project Unit has a Vocabulary and Driving Questions section. 


Students will present their projects.

Students will review the vocabulary for this unit.

Students will complete and discuss their answers on the Vocabulary 1: Part 1 worksheet.

Students will read and discuss "How Your Brain Tricks You Into Believing Fake News"

Students will define curiosity, claim testing and driving questions. 

Students will read and construct their own claim tester "New Controversial Idea About Stonehenge Has Archaeologists Shaking Their Heads"

Students will examine the Driving Question Notebook and Discussion Guide. 

Students will practice academic language, claim testing and engaging discourse through a class discussion centered around the driving question.  


No Homework! 

Session 6: Timelines and Scale 


Students will review scale. 

Students will define timelines, B.C., B.C.E., C.E., and A.D.

Students will watch and discuss "BC and AD...In Five Minutes" and "Learning Timelines (Gangham Style) or How to Read Timelines"

Students will read and interpret information on historical timelines. 

Students will construct timelines of major events in earth history, human history and their own lives.


Make a timeline of important events that have happened for every year of your life. 

Session 7: Big Questions - H2


Students will present their timelines.

Students will watch and discuss "Big Questions"

Students will discuss the following questions: 

What are some of the big questions that you have? What do you think it means to be human? How does modern science help you think about these questions?

Students will discuss the great debate between science and faith.

Students will watch and discuss "The Cambodian Myth of Lightning, Thunder, and Rain"


No Homework.

Session 8: Origin Stories


Students will watch and discuss "The Aztec Creation Story"

Students will read and discuss "Stone Shrine Discovered Inside Mexican Volcano Depicts Mythical Aztec Universe"

Students will review the importance of origin stories and the Three Close Reading process.

Students will read "Origin Stories Introduction" and complete A Three Close Reading.

Students will read and discuss the "Modern Scientific" origin story.

Students will choose a creation story from one of the following cultures: Chinese, Judeo-Christian, Iroquois, Mayan, Greek, Zulu, and Efik, read the story, compare it to the "Modern Scientific" origin story and report their findings back to the class. 


Cosmology and Faith

Session 9: Claim Testing


Students will choose claims they agree and disagree with then discuss as a class why they made those judgments.

Students will review vocabulary from this unit.

Students will answer the Driving Question: Why do we look at things from far away and close up?

Students will read, complete a Three Close Reading and discuss "Approaches to Knowledge"

Students will watch and discuss "How Do We Decide What To Believe?"


Read and complete the Three Close Reading of "Claim Testers: Episode 1"

Session 10: Investigation 1


Students will analyze investigative writing - claim and focus.

Students will define what conjecture is. 

Students will write a five- to-six paragraph essay explaining the benefits of both a faraway and a close-up view.


No homework

Session 11: Measuring Great Distances Part 1


Students will brainstorm ways to measure the distance between earth and new object in space.

Students will read, complete a Three Close Reading and discuss "How Do We Find the Distance to the Sun?"

Students will watch and discuss "Crash Course Astronomy: Distances" and "How to Measure the Distance to the Stars"

Students will measure distances using a parallax.


No homework

Session 12: Measuring Great Distances Part 2


Students will watch and discuss "How Old is the Earth?"

Students will model measuring time with radioactivity using 100 pennies. 

Students will revisit their brainstormed ideas from the last session and add the following information to their ideas: 

Method to measure the distance to this object, any assistance they might need from another group of astronomers, length of time needed to complete the measurement process and why they decided on this method of measurement

Students will discuss their findings with the class. 

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