The history of the universe in 20 minutes with educator Mike Burns
Mike Burns is so passionate about History that he changed careers to be able to teach it. Since he made the switch, Mike has taught students in elementary, middle and high school in the United States, Qatar and for the past eight years, China, nearly six of those at Concordia International School Shanghai. Of all of the classes and grades he has taught, Big History is the only one that allows Mike to collaborate with students discovering 13.8 billion years–all in one school year! If you are up for the challenge of tackling the history of the universe, don’t miss this podcast where Mike shares how the Big History project got started, what it is and how everything is connected!
This podcast is one of ten in the HowTo@ConcordiaShanghai series. For information on how to contract the Limitless platform to benefit your organization email Ally here.
You have to be comfortable with “I don’t know, let’s find out together.”
Intro to Big History
Big History is a free, Web-based course that covers the History of the Universe from the Beginning to the Present. Units of study are built around nine thresholds of increasing complexity that each introduce new physical scientific and social science disciplines as a result of “Goldilocks Conditions (not too hot, not too cold). As a result of Collective Learning, we are teaching a modern, evidence-based, scientific origin story. This program is a collaboration between Big History pioneer David Christian, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, and the University of Michigan team, lead by Bob Bain and the hundreds of teachers that have introduced Big History to their students and schools.
- To provide students with an interdisciplinary study of the history of the universe–the course moves from Cosmology to Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology, Biology, Anthropology, Archaeology, History and Economics
- To show the inter-connectedness and increasing complexity of everything
- To provide students a “Little Big History” framework to look at other ideas, commodities, places or activities
“Not a week goes by that there is not some new discovery, photograph, theory, or understanding of something we cover in the course. These findings present a fantastic way to work current events from the physical sciences into the course.”
A measurable student impact
- Explores the questions around “How did I get here?”
- Appeals to those interested in STEM because of strong science aspect.
- Connects students with the standing experts in various fields
- Culminates with student application in tangible way
Impact on the greater community
- Breaks down “silo-ization” of disciplines
- Builds collaboration both in the classroom and through broader Big History network
- Enables teachers to model life-long learning as part of a collaborative learning team
Mike to his students: “My last Chemistry class was 45 years ago. Your last Chemistry class was 45 minutes ago. We are going to have to work together on this.”
Class set up
- Traditional face-to-face instruction setting
- Could be one semester study but it would be a race
- At Concordia it is a full year course
- Others do it in two years
- On-line studies ideal because it is a web-based curriculum
Must-haves to ensure success
“At Concordia we are blessed with administrators that give us the opportunity to propose an idea and see where it goes.”
- Admin and faculty support–team has to be ‘on board’
- Access to computer at school or at home
- Internet access
- Motivated teacher with a wide-range of interests
Wish list items
- Supplemental text for in-depth study on selected topics
- Team teaching with both a history and a science teacher
- Study the teacher (and student) portions of the website
- Create a “must read” list to fill in gaps of understand (ask colleagues)
- Possible to do over a summer but year would be great
Identifying the right partner
Find a partner who is
- Cross-discipline teaching partner given the scope and depth of content of course
- Or someone comfortable with “I don’t know, let’s find out together”
- A motivated teacher with wide-range of interests that is wholeheartedly interested in teaching the course
Your next step
Join the resources rich network of enthusiastic teachers willing to work with one another through the process.
- Big History Project The ‘go to’ website to get started.
- International Big History Association (Professional Community and Development)
- Crash Course Big History (John Green-students love him as an author, teachers love him as a creator of great, classroom content for the Humanities)
- Big History Lecture Series (The Great Courses) From David Christian–this is the course that led to the Big History Project
Tip from Mike: “Courses go on sale all the time. I would never pay full price for a course.”
- Big History (H2-the History Channel. Narrated by Bryan Cranston
Connecting with Mike
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Mike Burns and we’ll make sure Mike receives your message.