We started Unit 8 of the Big History Project today. I made a slideshow from the article “Four World Zones: Climate and Geography Divide Human Populations.” by Cynthia Stokes Brown, which is available as part of Unit 8 on www.bighistoryproject.com. Then I told them about the story of Cheng Ho from “The Road to There, Mapmakers and Their Stories,” by Val Ross. I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I have really enjoyed what I have read and plan on having both my boys (16 & 13) read it. Cheng Ho was abducted at the age of 10 and given to a Chinese prince as a slave. He was educated and ended as the Admiral of the great Chinese Treasure fleet. I had never heard any of this story and was pretty amazed by it. I won’t ruin it for you, go get a copy of this book and read it yourselves. Cheng Ho’s story is just one of many in this book. I learned of this book while browsing the Build Your Library curriculum (additional info below) and managed to get a copy from our library.
After the presentation we played the World Zone Game from the Big History Project. I found a better score card on the teachers forum (yammer) that somebody had been nice enough to post. The kids split up into four groups and each group makes up their own country, decides if its a continent or an island chain, comes up with a name, describes its geography and climate and comes up with 6 resources. Then they roll 12 and 10 sided dice to determine their population growth and earn inventions, pick up cards that might cause population decreases (plague, conflict, natural disasters, etc) or population increases (discover new land, gain an invention, etc.) The kids had a lot of fun with the game and they learned some geography since they had to answer questions to gain a community chest card. Big History Project had questions based on their material but I wanted to put some more geography into the lesson so I had them point to continents, rivers, countries or trace out the path of Cheng Ho’s voyages, one of the youngest members of the class pegged that one!
As a side note, I’m pretty intrigued by the Build Your Library curriculum, its secular and the book selections look really good. She’s got a number of books that we’ve already read and enjoyed, so when I saw the April sale (20% off) I went ahead and bought the 8th grade curriculum (focused on science and I already own some of the books) and the WWII unit study. The curriculum is just a pdf so pretty inexpensive if you can manage to get the majority of the books and videos from the library. I hope to start doing the WWII unit study with my boys this month and start the 8th grade curriculum this summer or next fall. I’l give a proper review after we complete the WWII unit.