Activity Introduction

Quick summary: This lesson explores the impact of the development of agriculture (farming) on human civilisation. Students explore the changes that farming made to the way early humans lived, and investigate what has formed the human diet throughout history.

Subjects: Science, English, HASS

Year Level: Primary

Topics: The Big Bang, History

Teaching Time: 60 mins.

Unit: This is Lesson 11 of the Big History – Primary unit.

For more information on how to teach this unit and develop a transdisciplinary approach to your teaching, check out our Big History PD.

This Big History Program for primary school students is based on the Big History Project as adapted by Marilyn Ahearn and Marisa Colonna. Click here to view these lessons in their far more expansive original format.

Resources Required:

You may decide on different entrances to this story in your classroom. That is perfectly reasonable – as long as we tell the whole emerging story of our universe, as we know it! Think of the story as a chapter book where children need to hear the whole story to make sense of it – if we hear fragments from various chapters we are left with fragments once more!

Therefore, we strongly recommend you teach this unit as a whole from start to finish. You can find all of the Presentation Slides, Teacher Worksheets, Student Worksheets, and other required resources for download in this folder.

Alternatively, the resources for this lesson as a standalone are:

21st-Century Skills:

CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingDigital LiteracyGlobal Citizenship  

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – Facilitate explicit teaching and guide students through independent work. 

Australian Curriculum Mapping

“It is one of the many odd features of modern society, that despite having access to more information than any earlier society, those in modern educational systems … teach about (our) origins in disconnected fragments. We seem incapable of offering a unified account of how things came to be, the way they are.” – David Christian, 2011, Maps of time: an introduction to big history

We encourage you to teach Big History both through and in-between disciplines (transdisciplinary)

The story of our universe needs the expertise of academic disciplines to be made sense of and explained in full. The best evidence from a wide range of disciplines presents the current best answers to our big questions.

As primary educators, this provides us in turn with the opportunity to engage with this story from a particular perspective that your grade and/or school currently requires. This means that it is not seen as an add-on/extracurricular activity that our overloaded timetables cannot cope with. English, Science, & Creative Arts syllabuses easily incorporate Big History, alongside the skills and concepts from History and Geography. Maths, too, can be incorporated in the discovery of large numbers and measuring the large scales of time and space!

Syllabus outcomes: EN2-1A, EN2-2A, EN2-4A , EN2-6B, EN2-7B, EN2-8B, EN2-10C, EN2-11D, EN2-12E, ST2-4LW-S, ST2-5LW-T, ST3-7MW-T, ST2-9PW-ST, ST2-1WS-S, ST2-SPW-ST, HT2-2, HT2-5, GE2-1, GES2-3, GE2-4, VAS2-1,VAS2.4, PD2.6, PD2.7

General capabilities: Literacy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Big History embraces a curriculum that emphasises nature, economics, society and our own wellbeing to empower children to see our world view from the context of a unified universe story, not merely from within our local cultural worldview! 

Learning our emerging and unified 13.82 billion years of Big History helps us to understand the changing nature and fragility of our complex environment. We can use that knowledge of the past, present and future to investigate future possibilities for sustainable ways to meet our own needs and the needs of future generations.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Lesson 11: Human development: Agriculture and Civilisation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • … understand how human civilisation continued to develop with the invention of agriculture.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … contrast the differences between a hunter-gatherer and an agricultural lifestyle
  • … explain why agriculture (farming) is considered an important threshold in the development of human civilisation.

Teacher content information: 

Agriculture and Civilisation. Foraging is hard. It takes a long time to find the food and materials needed to feed a village. Foragers often have to walk long distances to get everything they need. Throughout the year, they had to move from place to place as they used up resources or to follow the seasons. It is not an easy life. One day, someone came up with the idea of farming. It is easy to assume farming always existed, but it hasn't. Humans invented agriculture. Farming enabled people to grow all the food they needed in

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Student Worksheet

Student Worksheet - Lesson 11

Thought-starter: What changed when people switched from being hunter-gatherers to being farmers?

Step 1. Read the text below.

Highlight any examples of how human life changed due to becoming farmers.

Life as a farmer, 1,000 years ago to 4,500 years ago

(adapted from Changing from foragers to agriculture and Before Civilization: Human Ancestors by Marilyn Ahearn)

The way we live today, settled in homes, close to other people in towns and cities, protected by laws, eating food grown on farms, and with leisure time to learn, explore and invent is all a result of the Neolithic revolution

Before the Neolithic revolution, which occurred approximately 11,500-5,000 years ago, it's likely you would have lived with your extended family as a nomad, never staying anywhere for more than a few months, always living in temporary shelters, always searching for food and never owning anything you couldn’t easily pack in a pocket or a sack. 

The change to the Neolith

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