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Big History Project: Common Core-aligned and pretty cool

By Team ISTE
February 9, 2015
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As educators work hard to implement the Common Core State Standards, they may have limited time to seek out standards-aligned resources that also deliver the cool factor students crave. Enter Big History Project, a free, open, Common Core-aligned course designed to help students meet the rigorous learning goals of the new standards, like synthesizing complex information and gaining a deep understanding of topics.

Big History describes itself as a resource to help students see the big picture — yep, also a Common Core goal — by examining the past, explaining the present and imagining the future.

“It’s a story about us,” says the Big History website. “An idea that arose from a desire to go beyond specialized and self-contained fields of study to grasp history as a whole. This growing, multi-disciplinary approach is focused on high school students, yet designed for anyone seeking answers to the big questions about the history of our Universe.

“The Big History Project is a joint effort between teachers, scholars, scientists, and their supporters to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to knowledge to lifelong learners around the world.”

The idea for Big History, which is funded by Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates, came from a series of lectures by David Christian, an Australian professor who integrates physics, geology, biology and other sciences to create a single, coherent narrative he describes as “a framework for all knowledge.” Gates was watching Christian’s lectures while exercising on his treadmill when he thought, according to a New York Times article , “Everybody should watch this thing.”

'Tis important to know History, to ensure it is not repeated

The Big History framework breaks down into five topic areas, each with content further divided into “thresholds.” The main topic areas include:

  • The universe
  • Our solar system and earth
  • Life
  • Humans
  • The future

The curriculum for each topic includes text, videos, photo galleries and assessments. Students earn badges as they progress through the thresholds and complete quizzes. When they complete the entire framework, they become a Certified Big Historian.

While Big History is not without controversy — and a few detractors — we think it’s a pretty cool resource that’s worth checking out.


If you’re looking to align your lesson plans with the Common Core and ISTE Standards, you could also join our free new social learning community, Project ReimaginED, for expert advice and help from your peers. 

Natural History Museum – Feb 2011 – Dinosaur Silhouette by Gareth Williams on flickr.

‘Tis important to know History, to ensure it is not repeated… by Jai Kapooron flickr.

The Great Wall of China by Brian Snelson on flickr.

Egypt-9B-059 by Dennis Jarvison flickr.