Curriculum Overview

This free curriculum is designed for middle school and high school classrooms.


  1. Provide you with tools for standards-aligned education of historical thinking.
  2. Introduce you and your students to exciting technologies and demonstrate how they can be used even if your school has limited infrastructure
  3. Empower you with non-digital tools and techniques to encourage your students to collaborate and practice higher-order communication

Project background

The ChronoZoom project started in 2009 when Walter Alvarez, a Professor of Geology at University of California Berkeley, asked his students for ideas about how to explain the profound differences in scale between human and geologic history.

Roland Saekow, then a student of Alvarez, proposed that they create a giant canvas to scale of all history from the Big Bang to the present, and zoom into it.  Walter and Roland began creating this canvas, and with help and exceptional generosity from Microsoft Research Connections, Moscow State University in Russia and the University of Washington, the first major release of ChronoZoom was completed in 2013.

To read more about the history of the project, click here. 

Lesson Plans Overview

Each lesson plan is designed to last 1-2 weeks and are intended to easily fit into an existing history course.

There are 3 core units, each of which embraces a different approach to teaching historical thinking:

Unit 1: Causes of WWI

This unit focuses on the events of 1874-1914 that led up to the onset of World War One.

This choice was made due to both the richness of the time period and the 100th year commemoration of WWI, which begins in 2014.

The focus of this unit is causality and multiple perspectives.

The material is taught using non-digital techniques in the classroom.

Students can subsequently use ChronoZoom to create timelines based on what they have learned and present these learnings to their classmates and teacher.

Unit 2: Atlantic Encounters

Atlantic Encounters presents a more abstract introduction to historical thinking by studying moments when cultures met across the Atlantic and how they were changed as a result.

Primary and secondary sources are considered, as well as multiple perspectives.

Students work in teams to research and build timelines to present their perspective into the effects of such encounters

Unit 3: The ChronoZoomer’s Guild

The third unit is a foundation to support historical thinking and is content-agnostic.

The material from the WWI unit is used to demonstrate the principles but it is intended to be adapted to topics your class is already teaching.

This unit provides templates and materials to immerse your students in an epic narrative that revolves around the class being contacted by a secretive organization from the future.

This organization, “The ChronoZoomer’s Guild” uses time travel to alter pivotal events in world history.

Students must demonstrate mastery of all fundamental historical thinking concepts and meet Common Core historical literacy standards.

We would like to thank the skilled professionals who contributed to this curriculum:

  • Denton Ireson, Pittsylvania County Public Schools (VA)
  • David Hicks, Virginia Tech
  • David Hunter, Zombie-Based Learning
  • Seth Kotch, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  • Andy Mink, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  • Elizabeth Mulcahy, Albemarle County Public Schools (VA)
  • Michael Neiberg, U.S. Army War College
  • Joshua Reid, University of Massachusetts – Boston
  • Samantha Shires, Guilford County Schools (NC)

They are  invited to create a timeline in ChronoZoom and present it as a proposal to create a better future.



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