In high school we took a history class, a science class (biology, physiology, or chemistry), a geography class and perhaps some kind of religious or cultural anthropology class. Four different disciplines, four different classes, four different teachers, four different sets of curriculum. But what happens when elements of all of those classes overlap, and instead of getting one big, comprehensive view of how the world works, students are left with fractured lessons and materials? There is an experiment that is about to launch in a few 9th grade classrooms across the country, in schools that will come from rich and poor school districts and include private schools and magnets, that might radically change the way high school curriculum is shaped. Called the Big History Project, with the backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it’s an introduction to the big ideas of methods of science and history, packaging the big ideas of the cosmos and the history of the human race into one lesson plan. It could revolutionize the way we teach high school…will it work?
Robert Bain, chair of secondary teacher education & associate professor of educational studies & history at the University of Michigan