As founder and chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest computer software company, Bill Gates thinks big, but when it comes to history, he thinks really, really big.
To encourage high school students to take a long view of history, Gates has teamed up with renowned San Diego State University history professor Dr. David Christian and University of Michigan education professor Dr. Bob Bain to develop a Web-accessible curriculum called Big History, which examines the origins of the universe 13.7 billion years ago and continues on through the millennia. The curriculum examines critical moments in time –– the development of stars, heavy elements and photosynthesis, to name a few. The idea is to show students how these developments shaped the cosmos –– and the world –– we know.
As part of the Big History Project, Gates is bringing the curriculum to the Bellmore-Merrick Central District’s three high schools, Calhoun, Kennedy and Mepham. They are part of a 50-school pilot program that, Gates hopes, will eventually bring Big History to many thousands of young people around the world. Big History schools can be found in 13 states as well as Canada, China, Korea, the Netherlands and Scotland.
“Big History is different from other history courses in that it covers our complete 13.7 billion years of shared history –– going all the way back to the Big Bang,” Gates wrote in August on his personal website, gatesnotes.com.
Dr. Henry Kiernan, the Central District superintendent, said that Bellmore-Merrick’s participation in the program began with a conversation he had recently with Bain. The professor wondered whether Kiernan, who is a historian, would be interested in having the Central District take part. The answer was a resounding yes.
To date, the superintendent said, the program has received only rave reviews. “The feedback from parents and kids has been very positive so far,” he said.
Between 25 and 28 ninth-graders are enrolled in the Big History course at each of the three high schools. Kiernan said he expects that number to grow as the program expands.