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Which Big History?

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I’m trying to plan to meet a World History requirement for next year for my sophomore History-hater/Science-lover. DS 8th grade will probably join us - he loves history, and science. Neither like academic writing, though we will work on it with history in a small way. I am considering Big History, partially to draw them in with the science and partially because dd does better with big picture ideas than detailed relationships/causalities.

Can anyone offer input on a Big History course? I have found these options, but maybe there are others? Recommendations? What are the good, bad, effective, problematic, interesting, boring, etc elements of these different options?

The Big History Project https://www.bighistoryproject.com/home

onlineG3. https://www.onlineg3.com/timeline/big-history/

Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project

The Great Courses https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/big-history-the-big-bang-life-on-earth-and-the-rise-of-humanity.html

Coursera (its too short but any input welcome) https://www.coursera.org/learn/big-history

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Well we have only done the online Big History Project, geared towards public school teachers, and are now listening to the Big History of Civilizations rather than the other one on Great Courses, that covers the entire course.  I like the professor who does the Civilizations better than David Christian, who does the overall course. We didn't start the Great Course until we got to Threshold 7 from the online materials.  We had gradually pared down what we did to watch videos, read articles (I had them outline or take notes on some of the articles), and do the Investigation Essays.  And added books that Chrysalis Academy had in her book list (she has a great write up on the boards from a couple of years ago)

Pros of the Big History Project online:

Interviews with all different scientists so that the kids got introduced to geologists, environmental scientists, biologists, paleontolgists... and they all talked about what they were doing in their field and what the big questions were that they were trying to answer.  It was very interesting.

Utilized Crash Course videos and they are big fans

The articles were often interesting, of a good length, and provided good practice at outlining.

The Essays were overall very good -- the first few were not quite as interesting (they were a little too obvious which led to overthinking and made things harder) but they got better and were good practice at learning how to use multiples text to support and argument. Very scaffolded.  I so am glad we did them.  If your kid has a lot of experience with that kind of writing, though, they might be too easy. My kids are in sixth and they were a big stretch. 

Cons:  Choppy sometimes, activities mostly had to be nixed. We only did a few. I think the online portion is a little light for high school, honestly. This is definitely where I would use something more robust, like the Great Courses. We are learning SO MUCH from the Civilizations, and it feels much more cohesive.  The other depends on the teacher to lead kids through making the connections, but as I am not a history or science teacher, I need a little more guidance. The Big History Civ course addresses the larger themes of what lead civilizations to form, how did people rise to become leaders within societies, how did empires form, what led them to fall... etc. 

My kids have not taken a class yet with Online G3 (though at some point I would like them to) and I know they are very heavy on great socratic discussion and less output. I'm sure they will do the Little Big History Project which is the big culminating project and which I am dreading. I would love to hand that off to someone else for my kids to be accountable for! I don't know if we will do it.  We are running out of time and summer is calling. 

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I have experience with the Big History Project and David Christian's Teaching Company lectures.

The BHP is showy and designed for high school students.  The TC lectures are done at a college level and are in the old style, so the visuals are limited.  I might start out with the BHP since it's free and then if it isn't meaty enough move to the TC lectures.

Either way, I'd add lots of supplemental reading.

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Thank you @SanDiegoMom in VA and @EKS for the input. It is very helpful.  We do have TGC plus streaming service and both Big History and Big History of Civilizations is on there so we can utilize those.  Maybe we will condense the first thresholds into 12 weeks and spend 24 weeks on human civilizations?

As far as history essay writing my kids have zero experience (it's been either light comprehension or Socratic discussion), and both struggle with academic writing generally (both are 2e), so I doubt they will be too easy.  I do like the idea of higher level input via Great Courses.

So I will probably end up blending BHP and TC lectures. Are there any "not to be missed" activities from Big History Project?

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We did (and will be finishing) most of the Investigations.  In the first Unit we did the activities on parallax, in the third we did the Superhero Element (because they're 6th graders and that sounded fun:-)) and I think in Unit 2 we did the Make your own comic strip. In Unit 4 we did the activity was there science before the scientific revolution, which was good since it used primary sources and got the kids thinking about what constitutes "doing science".  we studied the transit graphs activity a little bit just to get a general understanding (the pdfs weren't great so they were hard to use and really hard for someone without a science background, but we got the general idea), and they created their own species in Unit 5... which one finished and one didn't . None of it was really make or break except for the investigations, but some were helpful to fill in gaps (the astronomy stuff), some weren't necessary since they had a strong background in the periodic table from Ellen Mchenry, and now we are just coasting to the end with the videos and the last few investigations. 

I sat with my kids and read through all the primary documents for the investigations with them, then we talked about how each one might contribute to the overarching question posed by the investigation, and then we worked through making the outline together. Then they wrote the essay by themselves once they had a thorough outline.  It worked.  

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  • 3 months later...

@SanDiegoMom in VA I just started watching the Big History of Civilizations yesterday and have been really enjoying them.  We are getting ready to start BHP next week and are really looking forward to it.  I'm also thinking of adding in SWB History of the Ancient World, et al. on audio. Anyone else adding in more world history?  Does BHoC cover much of that same info?  We are hoping to also get in an year of Western Civ with this as well. 

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