Bill Gates Thanks Greenhills in Big History Blog/Tweet
In a recent blog and tweet, Microsoft founder Bill Gates thanked Greenhills for being an early adopter of the Big History project, a course he founded with David Christian, an historian at Macquarie University in Australia. “I want to thank our pilot school partners for their tireless support and commitment,” Gates said. “They helped us on all facets of the course. It has been inspiring to see the program develop, and we owe it all to these schools and teachers…”
“Greenhills is definitely a star in this Big History project,” says history teacher Tammy Shreiner, whose connection with U-M professor Bob Bains was how Greenhills became one of the eight pilot schools (six in the U.S. and two in Australia). “Bill Gates definitely knows who we are.”
Originally rolled out to upper school students last year, the Big History course starts with the Big Bang theory 13.7 billion years ago and ends with the modern era, connecting facts and events throughout into a unified story. Instead of using a traditional textbook and tests and quizzes to assess learning, Big History uses its own interactive website, which students have really responded to. The feedback from the pilot year has been so positive, in fact, that this fall 50 schools have signed on to teach it.
“Now that it’s seen success and gotten such positive feedback, the program is exploding,” says Shreiner. “It’s just really exciting.”
Also exciting for Greenhills was senior Derek Heitman’s participation at the first annual International Big History Association conference, which about 200 people attended in Grand Rapids August 3-5. Part of a five-person panel, Heitman presented the lessons he learned and insights he gained from taking Big History to a roomful of about 30 distinguished scholars and historians.
“I was definitely nervous beforehand, but it went really well,” says Heitman. “It was so cool afterwards to meet all these people that I watched on videos and read about — like Cynthia Stokes Brown and David Christian.
“I really enjoyed Big History,” adds Heitman. “The class taught me important critical thinking skills and to think bigger and deeper than what is just on the surface.”