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.

  • Rachel,

    Your analogies and examples of switching scales to zoom out and zoom in to history are so helpful! It makes me really cognizant of how we do that naturally throughout our lifetimes, and how teachers can intentionally help students with this skill as they study history.

    I have some questions:

    1. What should we be ready for as the most challenging/problematic point students may have with the concept?

    2. How can we discuss this concept and the need for this skill with fellow teachers when they attached to their favorite "zoomed in" projects at the expense of seeing a bigger picture?

  • Rachel, you have a really useful and valuable presentation on scale-shifting.  I remember when you shared this talk in Seattle last January; you include many important elements as you model how Historians (or teachers of History) tell a story.  Kathy directed us to respond to the following question:  "Hi everyone! It was a real treat to prepare this talk for the OER Conference for Social Studies, and I was hoping to ask the group for feedback on how they teach this concept of scale switching in the classroom! What are your best practices? Do you have any advice for new teachers getting started?"  I find that attempt to explore the History of our city (Holland, MI), the History of our state (How did Michigan become Michigan), and then the History of Big History.  If we establish this well during the beginning of the year, the constructs we identify for local stories find their way in the larger narrative of Big History.  My "best practices" (I do not embrace this term, but I'll apply it to our attempts) is to navigate between local and "Big History" material.  My students identify Petoskey stones (a town in Michigan that features particular rock formations).  We discover that the rocks are actually fossils, of coral life from years ago. How did this coral life get to the Great Lakes?  We have no coral life in the Great Lakes.  We now have to consider that "Michigan" used to be located closer to the equator, and moved with plate tectonic muscle.  I look to use many stories like this one, to show how our local experiences share or don't share with experiences from History.  Good luck with your presentation in Iowa; you should enjoy a really nice reception from the audience.  You are encouraging us to consider History in a necessary way!