History Just Keeps Getting Longer - Rachel Hansen

This year we have more history to teach than last year. It just keeps getting longer! That doesn’t mean we should teach less of it. When students learn to scale shift, history will become more meaningful and relevant as they begin to contextualize their place in the narrative.

  • Great job Rachel.  I teach with Rachel at Muscatine High School in Iowa, and she's one of the best.  She works endless hours to make a difference in our student's lives.  She is creative, knowledgeable, and has a strong passion for history.

  • Scale is such a huge concept for 6th graders to wrestle with mentally.  We are constantly looking for ways to bring scale into the equation, and one of the best ways of zooming in and zooming out that we have found is bringing in local history.  Showing students how a particular Threshold of Increasing Complexity relates to their city, town, or location does wonders for making connections to the overall narrative.  For us, we are a University community, so the connections to many of the early units is quite easy.  Dr. James Kaler at the University of Illinois,is a world renowned astronomer who has come and spoken with our students about the life cycle of stars, and has a very impressive collection of meteorites from around the world.  He has been able to make connections for Units 2, 3, and 4, showing the students exactly how our city, in the American Midwest, fits into the overall narrative of the early units of Big History.  As we move closer to looking at human history, we have also been able to touch base with many scholars who are experts on everything from early humans, Native Americans of Illinois, to experts on the Industrial Revolution and global warming.  When you are able to tap into your local history, the sky is the limit, and often times, these experts in their disciplines are more than happy to come out and share their understandings with your students.

  • Former Member
    Former Member 7 months ago

    Teaching scale, and scale switching, is so important in a history classroom! I recently taught the first few days of the course with scale by modifying the Human History on a String activity to something that students could do on paper (we were in person, but attempting not to have students get too close to one another, but this modification would also make it work remotely). Basically, students did the math to create a Big History and Human History timeline on a "ruler" (it was super not to scale once I copied the image onto a page though!). Right before this, they wrote the "history of me," and then we discussed after. If anyone wants the document just let me know--I just don't have the files on this machine right now!

  • Hi Rachel, excellent job with this track talk.  I like starting the year with a simple activity.  I ask the students to make a "timeline of you."  I give very little instruction or direction, I just tell them to select 8 events.  Without fail the students select their birth as the first event.  Then as I follow up with questions and get them thinking about how they got here, outside the few giggles of them thinking about their parents meeting, students begin to see the world around them.  They begin to see world events that pushed or pulled their grandparents to come to this country.  It is a really fun activity and it fits nicely with your thread.  

  • Rachel I am impressed with how well you explain the concept of scale switching in both geographic and temporal frames. Students often struggle at first to understand how the BHP narrative connects to them.  When using the example of scale shifting to tell a personal story helps students to think about their own history, which they are familiar with, and allows them to apply that understanding to the larger BHP narrative, which they are often unfamiliar with.  I really liked starting the year last year having students write their own personal timeline.  I had them complete one at the opening of class during the first week.  Then I shared with them my timeline which reached back before I was born.  The students quickly realized they did not include anything before their birth.  This realization opened the door to have a conversation about scale and the need to reach beyond an event to understand the context for its occurrence. I then had students remake their timelines to include this concept of scale.