Last fall while teaching a course on the history of the scientific revolution I chronicled my efforts to teach students to be curious. I tried modeling curiosity, showing them how to formulate questions, and explaining good questions (at some point in the near future I will polish off the posts that conclude that particular experiment in pedagogy, which seemed to enjoy mixed results). This fall, in my Introduction to the History of Science course, which spans Greek antiquity through the 14th century with forays into the Islamic and the Byzantine worlds, I am again adjusting my approach in order to get students to struggle with primary sources—old things—much sooner and in a more open-ended way. Moreover, this time I want to use that source material to persuade students to see science, its power to organize reality, and its history in a more nuanced and problematic way.
To accomplish these goals, I jettisoned my course’s typical chronological framework, which structured the first half of the semester. Instead, I opened with a couple weeks on maps and mapping. We began simply enough by looking at some Google maps of the local area, comparing the satellite versions with the schematic map.