Mumbai to Macquarie: Big History visit Down Under

Mumbai to Macquarie: Big History visit Down Under

Mumbai to Macquarie: Big History visit Down Under


Image: (L-R) Education Leader Tracy Sullivan, Big History teacher Nishanth Nagavar and Professor David Christian. 

Big History teacher in India, Nishanth Nagavar, shares his thoughts from a visit to Australia to explore Big History in the classroom. 

The Big History Project has been a fascinating journey for teachers and students at Dhirubhai Ambani International School (DAIS) in Mumbai, India. We have been piloting the shorter version of the course since August 2015. Education Leader Tracy Sullivan from the Big History Institute (BHI) has been very supportive in introducing the course, conducting workshops and follow up meetings in Mumbai along with a few other schools. As the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies and a Big History teacher I had the big opportunity to visit the BHI and a couple of schools in Sydney which offer the course.

My most memorable part of the visit was the unique opportunity to engage in a long conversation with Professor David Christian under the scenic Harbour Bridge facing the Sydney Opera House. The informal discussion ranged from the Big Bang to History to Mythology to Modernity and to the complexity of our cultures. It was an enriching interaction for me where Professor Christian comfortably crossed several 'thresholds' to reinforce the philosophy behind the Big History Project.  As well as how schools across the globe can benefit from introducing the big picture view of the interdisciplinary scientific narrative to minimise conflicts and find solutions to the global problems of the present and future. He also answered some queries that my zealous colleagues and students had raised and gave a few invaluable insights.

The school visits allowed me to see how the course is put into practice. I was fortunate to see students at the end of their course and the academic year as they had covered the majority of concepts and units by then. My first visit was to Narrabeen Sports High School, where I attended Jillian Turner's lesson. The teacher clearly transferred her energy and enthusiasm onto the students of mixed ability and interest and engaged them in looking at a particular historical time frame through critical thinking. The students' Little Big History presentations were inspiring. I also interacted with the students who were positive about the course.

My next visit was to Smiths Hill High School in Wollongong where I attended Jonathon Dallimore's lesson. At this academically selective school, the teacher employed a different approach to deliver the course to the students who were engaged enthusiastically in discussing the likely solutions to problems and their implications in future scenarios. Both schools were diverse and very engaged.

My visit to Macquarie University, the on campus Museum, the BHI and the Library was fruitful. The use of collaborative spaces and the mechanisation of the book delivery system at the library provided an insight into the near future of learning spaces.

Overall, my brief visit was a rewarding experience and provided me an opportunity to review our own course at DAIS. It also reinforced that completing the course by covering all the units will be a fulfilling experience for the students as they get to apply these skills and knowledge in several disciplines in their future pursuit of knowledge. Thanks to the BHI for this exceptionally well organised visit.

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