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Big History Unit Guide Lesson by Lesson

Lesson 1: History of Me

Key Competencies
Managing Self
Using Language, Symbols and Text
Relating to Others

Key Concepts
Past and Present

Curriculum Links
Level 4
Understand how people pass on and sustain culture and heritage for different reasons and
that this has consequences for people

Achievement Objectives
Students will understand some of their own history and ways that they and others think about the
past

Purpose
In this activity, students write a history of themselves, and then have the opportunity to reflect
upon the scale at which they examined their own histories. This helps students to understand that
their own personal narratives do have things in common with the much larger Big History narrative.

Process
Tell students to take 4 minutes to write a history of you. Intentionally leave the directions very
vague, so that the students will write naturally. Also be intentional about only giving them a short
period of time to write.

After they are done, ask these follow-up questions: By a show of hands, indicate whether students
talked about:

their time in high school
their childhood
their parents
their parents childhoods
their grandparents
anything that happened over 100 years ago
anything that happened over 1,000 years ago

The most probable result of this exercise is that most students will have talked about their
childhood and their parents; grandparents are iffy; 100 years ago is very rare. Point this out to the
students, and then ask these questions:

How many of you talked about anything thats further away than New Zealand?
What is the most distant place any of you mentioned?

Pose some of the following questions to your students (along with the talking points):

1. Why did you pick the facts and events that you picked?

2. You only had a few minutes to write your entire historyhow did you decide what was
important enough to include?

Sample reflection point: This quick thinking is especially interesting because you dont have time to
think about it. You have to make snap judgments, and that says something about how you think
when you think automatically rather than in advance.

3. Is it ever possible for a history of you to be complete? What would it mean for the history
to be complete? How could you tell? How long do you think it would it take you to write it?

Sample reflection point: You actually have to be selective no matter what, because you cant
possibly include literally everything.

Talk with your students about the following:
Theres a natural scale in time and space that people in our society think of when writing a
biography or autobiography. For example, in telling your own story, you probably thought that your
parents were worth mentioning, and possibly your grandparents, but probably not more distant
ancestors. (Many other cultures think differently about this!) You might have included events
before your conception and birth, but probably not more than 100 years before, and almost
certainly
(unless you are already thinking very, very big) not more than 1,000 or 10,000 years before. Why
not? Did events that happened hundreds or thousands or millions or billions of years ago affect
your story? This can bring up things like the fact that the Universe, Earth, and life exist at all; the
geography of the Earth; the form and composition of our bodies and our genetic makeup; the
migrations of people from one place to another; the fact that everyone currently alive shares the
exact same set of ancestors if you go back far enoughprobably just a few thousand years,
according to recent researchand if any two of that set of ancestors had not had children there
would be a completely different set of people alive today.

Conceptual Thinking
Once you have discussed this, pose some more questions to the class:

1. How would your story change if you had written it as starting 1,000 years agoor 100,000,
or a million?
2. What if you framed your story as part of the Milky Ways story?
3. Do you think these are meaningful things to do?

Summary
Talk to your students about what some might call the landscape analogy. You see different things
about a landscape when you look at it from an airplane versus focusing in on a small piece of the
landscape while on the ground. You probably think about your storyor anyone elses storyon a
certain scale, but in Big History we look at these stories on many different scales, and we discover
different patterns as we do that.


Lesson 2: What do we know about early humans?

Key Competencies
Managing Self
Using Language, Symbols and Text
Participating and Contributing

Key Concepts
Continuity and Change
Cause and Effect
Collective Learning

Curriculum Links
Level 4
Understand that events have causes and effects
Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for
people, places, and environments

Achievement Objectives
Students will understand the evolution of early humans and how changes in climate and
environment affected people

Purpose
In this lesson students begin to form an idea of how humans came to be the dominant species in
the biosphere. The two activities are designed to give students to opportunity to explore some of
the fundamental information about human evolution processes, change over time and the reasons
for those changes.

Process
Activity 1: Early ancestors ordering
Directions: Project the Early Ancestors Image Sort worksheet, which shows some of our early
ancestors. Have students indicate the order of the images, from earliest ancestors to Homo sapiens,
on the worksheet. At this point, the students are not presumed to have any formal understanding
of how humans have evolved. This activity provides an opportunity to start their thinking about this
process and to put their limited understanding to use. This activity should be done quickly. After
students have arranged the images, ask them to jot down everything they can that differentiates
humans from our ancestors. Have students share out some of the differences they come up with.
Later in the lesson, they will have a chance to form a deeper understanding of how humans have
evolved from our early ancestors, and to see how that compares with what they came up with here.

Activity 2: Collective Learning Article
This is a reading comprehension exercise designed to give a large chunk of information to be
chewed. It directly introduces the key concept of Collective Learning and encourages students to
start to think about how humans have changed over time and what the causes and effects of these
changes have been. Students are to write down their answers as they go through the text, creating
a store of information for future reference.

Summary
Teacher is to lead a class discussion about the conclusions that students have reached from the
article and from the ordering task to check understanding and to generate interconnections of
knowledge.

Lesson 3 How do we know about early humans?

Key Competencies
Managing Self
Using Language, Symbols and Text
Participating and Contributing
Relating to Others

Key Concepts
Culture
Society
Academic process
Past and Present

Curriculum Links
Level 4
Understand how people pass on and sustain culture and heritage for different reasons and
that this has consequences for people
Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for
people, places, and environments
Understand that events have causes and effects


Achievement Objectives
Students will understand the academic fields of anthropology and archaeology and how they have
contributed to what we know about the past

Purpose
This is a three part lesson designed to give students an understanding about the scientific basis for
the study of the past. Students will gather information about the way that anthropologists and
archaeologists engage in their studies and will ultimately have a go at their own academic study of a
hypothetical scenario Historos Cave.

Process
The first two lessons are very much centred on video interpretation exercises and classroom
discussion based on the questions raised by the videos and the types of questions that would be
asked by members of these academic fields. It will be important for teachers to remind students
that they are not themselves members of these academic fields (it they are not) and that the
students possibly have as much information about the field as the teacher.

The third lesson is meant to be a hands-on stations activity. Students will approach a set of relics
from the standpoint of an anthropologist, archaeologist, geologist and palaeontologist, and will
investigate using the questioning techniques that they have developed through the previous two
lessons.

Blombos Cave is an archaeological site located on the southern coast of South Africa, not far from
Cape Town. In 1991, archaeologists began to excavate a wealth of artefacts that gave them new
information about the early humans who had lived in the cave off and on starting about 100,000
years ago. Scientists have used the tools, fossils, paintings, and other clues found at Blombos to
learn a great deal about the lives of early humans.

Historos Cave is a fictional cave similar in geography and composition to Blombos. Have your
students examine the photographs of the objects on the Historos Cave Worksheet, all of which
were found at this fictional site, to help paint a picture of the daily lives of the people who lived
there. This could be done as a stations activity where students move around the class examining the
objects they come across.

Often, as at Blombos Cave, scientists from different disciplines work together to analyze the objects
and other clues found at a site. Together, theyre able to develop a detailed idea of the lives of the
people who lived there. Now your students will have a chance to be part of the interdisciplinary
team working at Historos Cave.

Divide your class into groups. Each member of a group will assume the role of a scientist. More than
one scientist from the same discipline may work together. Have the students choose a role:

anthropologist
archaeologist
geologist
paleontologist

Obviously the students have just spent two periods investigating anthropology and archaeology, but
hey will be less conversant with geology and palaeontology, so they will need an opportunity to
check what these roles entail. This is mentioned in the workbook but will probably be important for
the teacher to stress

Students will describe what each scientist would focus on when investigating the cave, and think
about how each discipline would answer the following questions:

What were some of the physical traits of the early humans living in this cave?
What were they eating and how did they get their food?
What was a day in the life of an early human like here?

Once each group has completed its responses to each of the questions for each discipline, bring the
class back together for a student led or teacher led discussion about the kinds of questions asked by
each of the disciplines and the kinds of conclusions that the students have come up with.

Lesson 4 How did early humans survive in the wild?

Key Competencies
Managing Self
Using Language, Symbols and Text
Participating and Contributing
Relating to Others

Key Concepts
Culture
Economics
Resources
Continuity and change

Curriculum Links
Level 4
Understand that events have causes and effects
Understand how people participate individually and collectively in response to community
challenges

Achievement Objectives
Students will understand how humans survived in the wild over millions of years through foraging
for resources

Purpose
This two-part lesson is designed to give students an understanding of how humans have survived
for millions of years as hunter-gatherer societies, and the kinds of economic decisions that they
have had to make in order to survive.

Process
For the first part of this lesson students read a three part article in which they process the
information through the creation of a Flow Chart, and through a summary chart. The second part
requires them to create a hunter-gatherer menu. Students will do some research on foraging diets
and how our foraging ancestors might have used a variety of tools to hunt and gather. They have to
choose menu items that a typical forager might have hunted and gathered in the location they
specify. This activity will allow students to learn about the variety of different food items available
in certain areas and how early foragers would have procured these items.

Students will begin this activity by choosing a name and location for their imaginary restaurant
along with a date to correspond to when people would have been foraging in their location. They
then have to research what a typical forager might have hunted and gathered in their geographical
region in order to put together their menu. Students must include information on the tools used to
forage that particular food item as well as information about where the food item was located.

Students will then apply this information to a creative presentation of their menus. Teachers could
assess this against a creative criterion. Teacher will need to organise for the students to have ICT
device access.
Lesson 5 How did early humans spread around the world?

Key Competencies
Managing Self
Using Language, Symbols and Text
Participating and Contributing
Relating to Others

Key Concepts
Resources
Continuity and change

Curriculum Links
Level 4
Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for
people, places, and environments
Understand that events have causes and effects

Achievement Objectives
Students will understand how human beings travelled to and settled in all of the habitable
continents over time



Purpose
This lesson is designed to give students an understanding of how early humans settled the earth
prior to the last ice-age and also serves as an understanding check prior to the next unit

Process
Students will read an article on the settling of the globe and fill in a map using mapping conventions
that expresses this information. This information can be as detailed or as basic as is useful for the
teachers needs. There are four sources of information available for the teacher to direct the
students towards. ICT resources will be necessary for the students if the teacher wishes to go for a
more detailed mapping exercise.
This exercise leads to a glossary challenge which can be adapted to suit the teachers needs. It could
serve as a formative assessment or a group task and discussion point. This task could stand alone or
could be used as a starter for the inquiry task.

Lesson 6 Group based inquiry on the Stone Age

This lesson comprises the summative assessment component of the course. The students will have
four lessons to prepare a set of completed educational tasks (questions and answers). In the very
last period all groups will present their tasks and the best group will get a prize. Groups will require
ICT resources in order to complete research tasks these have been booked into the library so that
other library resources can be used alongside ICT. Netbooks can also be used when not in the
library.

Once the resources have been created the students will present their assignments to the rest of the
class for peer assessment. The students must present five educational activities and present them
as finished products. Each group will have twelve minutes for presenting their finished products to
the rest of the class

Assessment Schedule
The assessment is done by the students and is a very simple criterion: effectiveness as achieving the
required thinking out of 3.

When a group is presenting the other class members rate each activity out of 3:
0 is ineffective
1 is somewhat effective
2 is effective
3 is very effective

This rating system will need to be made clear to the students before the presentations begin. Each
class member will rate the presentations of each group.

The teacher will need to compile the overall group scores after the second period of presentations
to determine which group has the highest overall score. There will be a prize for this group.