Today was our first Big History class and it went really well. We had a lot of stuff to do and we actually got through it all. As kids came in the door they started decorating their composition notebooks with duct tape. This should help make them a little sturdier and makes them easy to identify. We’re going to do a lot of interactive notebook stuff so at the end of the year they should have a nice ‘textbook’ of their own making for Big History. I had a couple of rolls of patterned duct tape and a couple of the kids brought some too, so we had a nice selection. Each student got to pick from an assortment of ribbons to glue in a bookmark, and next week we’l add elastic to hold the books closed. I had everyone title the first or second page in their book as Table of Contents so we can keep track of each project that goes in the notebooks.
As kids finished setting up their notebooks I had them find the stack of cards with a satellite image of their house/neighborhood on it. Then they took the stack and glued them in their notebook so you could lift each flap to see the next picture. Each card zooms a bit further from their house: Neighborhood, City, Valley (included all the cities the students are from), State, Country, Earth, Solar System, Milk Way. On each card the kids drew a dot, an arrow, or put a little sticky dot to show their location. This activity is called Galactic Address and you can find at the Lawrence Hall of Science website, or on the Universe at Your Fingertips DVD (I bought this DVD and its worth every penny, TONS of great activities). I changed the activity a little bit by putting in an image of the Milky Way and used google maps to print out city maps and the kids houses. I have 12 kids in my class and most are sets of siblings so it wasn’t too much work. I think the original activity has you put the School as the final address but since we’re homeschoolers, we used our homes!
The second activity we did was the Cosmic Calendar, which can also be found on the Universe at Your Fingertips DVD, but can also be found for free here. This idea originally came from Carl Sagan. Trying to wrap our minds around 13.7 billion years is very hard to do, so we put all of time on a single 12 month calendar, with the Big Bang occurring on the first second of January 1st and present day at midnight on Dec 31st. Now, where would the other big events lie? First I split the class into groups of 3 and gave them a stack of cards with different
events; big bang, first life, formation of Milky Way, formation of solar system, etc and asked them to put them in chronological order. Once they had the order we tried to figure out what month each event would happen in and taped it to the right day on the calendar. I had a clothes line strung up across the living room with the calendar pinned to it (see photo). Once we had the big Cosmic Calendar completed they each made a small folding one to put in their notebooks. I printed them so there were 3 months on a page & trimmed the pages before class, so the kids just had to tape the pages together and accordion fold them. I had a bunch of stickers they could use for some events (star stickers for for 1st stars formed, dinosaur stickers, etc) and some just drew pictures.
Next week each student, or pair of students, is going to bring an origin story to share with the class. The Big History Project has some on their website the kids can read, and there is a huge collection of mythology at the Mythology Un-Textbook site. There also some animated shorts of mythology at The Big Myth website/app.