Last year in my World History class, we focused a lot more on current events than the typical history class did, looking at what was going on in the news and tracing it back to its roots. We were able to spend a lot of time studying ISIL, for example, and looking into how the Iraq War led to their rise, and how the country’s religious and social turmoil in the past made it ripe for such extremism. It was a ton of fun, and very interesting to students as they saw things develop on the news—they didn’t have to ask why something was happening, as we’d already looked into it.
Another area we studied was disease, especially focusing on the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. As we were going into that, I remembered an older Radiolab episode I’d heard, and while it focused on HIV, I remembered it having a lot of similar ideas that I wanted my students to look into, so I assigned them to listen to that and then write about how it applied to Ebola.
What’s my takeaway from this? Honestly, doing the current-events-for-a-world-history-class thing was more of a trial thing, as I had never taught a history class before, but I’m a news junkie and was certain that I’d be able to teach current events better than historical events, or at least teach historical events in the context of current events. It turned out to be a great experiment, though, and one that I’m looking forward to duplicating this school year, but better than ever!