When Dave Burzillo started teaching the Big History course at Rivers four years ago, you could count the number of teachers taking part in Australian professor David Christian’s collaborative project on two hands. That number has since climbed to 450 with over 10,000 students experiencing the unique interdisciplinary course worldwide.
Burzillo’s role in the program has also increased. With the rapid expansion of the program the Big History Project has named 10 “Master Teachers” and the Rivers history teacher has been named a Master Teacher for New England.
“Being asked to serve as a master teacher in a cutting-edge project like this is a tremendous honor,” Burzillo said. “It is an incredibly exciting curriculum, and there are so many great teachers already working in the program.”
The responsibilities of this new role are very similar to those he performed as one of the original pilot teachers of the program three years ago. Burzillo will still help develop the curriculum and provide the project with feedback on its materials, but he will now also be tasked with running biannual workshops to support teachers in New England.
The more recent of the two workshops Burzillo has led was held on August 2 and was attended by teachers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
“The Big History teachers I have worked with over the past three years do their primary teaching in a wide-range of disciplines: science, language, social studies, art, and history. So there is a great diversity of experiences these teachers bring to the table, and this diversity in disciplinary perspectives and ideas leads to really fascinating discussions about the lesson materials and how best to present the material to students.”
Burzillo’s title is not the only thing different about the 2013-14 version of Big History, however. The course, which was previously only taught for one trimester at Rivers, will now be a two-trimester course, allowing students to delve deeper into the many different topics covered by the course.
“I’ve always been a history teacher but I’ve always been jealous of science teachers because they get to do labs,” Burzillo said. “By doing labs you get to discover what you are learning instead of just hearing it or reading about it. When you do a lab you gain that understanding of how something works and I’m excited to have the added time to do that this year.”
What that time will also allow Burzillo and his students to do is tackle the revamped and improved course materials. The project improves by leaps and bounds forward every year but this year promises to be the best iteration yet thanks to the investment of teachers like Burzillo.
For the first time, the project’s website
can be accessed by the public and there will be a version of the course that is open to the public thanks to the backing of avid supporter and noted philanthropist, Bill Gates. The open version was launched earlier this month.
The launch of the open version of the course will allow thousands more to join in this 13.7 billion year journey through our universe led by teachers like Dave Burzillo.