Unique High School Program Covers 13.8 Billion Years of History

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Michael Gerber, a teacher in Mullica Township, to explain how his gifted and talented program is teaching his middle schoolers about 13.8 billion years through the The Big History Project.

8/22/17 #2068






"We are pleased to be joined by Michael Gerber, one of the great public school teachers in the state of New Jersey, a teacher in Mullica Township School District. You teach history? I do. With a very unique approach. This is part of our Classroom... well, part of the Classroom Close-up series we do in cooperation with our colleagues and partners at the NJEA. We're about to see a clip. What kind of history are we talking? Well, it's history. But it's modern history. It's history with a twist. We look at history through the lens of science. And we do so with this grand narrative of over 13 billion years. Oh, just 13 billion years? Just 13 billion. So it's quite fascinating. To say the least. And you know this clip we're about to see from Classroom Close-up, but not everyone else has seen it. Right? I have, yes. We're gonna see it right now. Together. We are. Okay cool. This is from Classroom Close-up. Check it out. So I am Fluorine Man. And I am Magnesium Girl. So together we make magnesium fluorine. Michael Gerber's students cover a lot of material. 7th graders are analyzing nutritional intakes to create an ideal school lunch. 8th graders are trying to convince an imaginary town to adopt renewable energy. 6th graders are doing experiments to understand asteroid impacts. And 5th graders are learning how elements combine to create chemical compounds. Sounds like health, government, astronomy, and chemistry, right? Actually, it's history. Big History. We look at history through 13.8 billion years. And Big History essentially is a history course, but there's a twist. It's a history course through the lens of science, where we approach it with different insights, through historical and scientific approaches, where students are able to create this one long, beautiful, coherent story. Where they're able to understand people, civilizations, and how everything around us is connected. Yesterday I had you go back and look at your nutrition, your daily diet. Comparing... This course was designed by a gentleman named David Christian, who taught it at a collegiate level, and Bill Gates happened to stumble upon this course. And he thought to himself, "Wow, this course is amazing." He approached David Christian and said, "Hey, could you implement this at a public high school level?" 7th grade, we just finished a project called Feed the World, and in that project, students have to figure out historical trends of different conditions that support the earth. Such as population growth, food production, and then they have to figure out at what point can the earth stop supporting us. And now what's the trend or pattern? It's going up. It is increasing for sure. And mine is 102..."