Friday, 19 June 2015

Turning Kids Into Historians - Lucy Coats

I had a dry-as-dust History teacher at secondary school. We 'did' the Georgians twice, and I shudder even now at any mention of the War of Jenkins' Ear or the South Sea Bubble. Luckily for me, my Ancient History teacher was passionate, engaging, interesting - and built on my love of Latin and the classics to foster my love of that time period.'s all too easy to turn kids off history forever.
'It all happened a long time ago.'
'It's not relevant to my life.'
'What's the point of it?'
'Boring, boring, boring!'
I'm pretty sure many of those reading this will have come across those sorts of comment from kids. I'm also pretty sure that all of us who have dragged bored children and teenagers round both British and foreign historical sites will recognise the feeling that what should have been a fascinating trip is fast turning into the afternoon from hell.

So how do you turn disengaged kids on holiday into passionate historians? Sarah Towle, founder of Time Traveller Tours & Tales thinks she has an answer to that. Make history into a story and turn it interactive. Imagine walking the streets of Paris with Madame Guillotine as your tour guide, with a mobile app on your phone which will plunge you into the world of the French Revolution, telling you how all that old stuff relates to life in France today via geo-location enabled interactive stories, treasure hunts and challenges. It's a medium kids understand and can tap into immediately.

Towle's vision is compelling - the company's slogan is 'We Turn History On' - and her next project takes TTTT to the Florence of Michelangelo and his David. For this she has engaged the talents of passionate Italy-lover and award-winning author Mary Hoffman, who knows more about the Florence of the Medici than most. It's ambitious, but the story (titled In The Footsteps of Giants) sounds absolutely compelling, and the perfect companion to walk the streets of Firenze with. But - and it's a big but - it won't happen unless Towle reaches her Kickstarter campaign target of $40,000 to fund it. With 165 backers so far (and counting), over $30.000 raised and the endorsement of a Kickstarter 'Staff Pick' it should be easy. However, there are only 7 days to go. It will be tight.

I'm going to come right out here and say that I have put my money where my mouth is and backed the project. Not only do I think it's incredibly worthwhile, but I also know that it will be a blessing in the classroom (as well as the app, there are curriculum-based materials, interactive e-books and more) and to parents. If you feel the same way, and have even a small amount to spare, I would urge you to follow me and show your support by pledging on the Time Traveller Tours & Tales Kickstarter page. I really really want kids to be able to get their hands on this marvellous resource and become passionate historians for the rest of their lives. I hope you will agree.

OUT NOW from Orchard, Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) "a thrilling tale full of danger, friendship and budding romance" Our Book Reviews
Also out now: new Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review
Lucy also blogs at Girls Heart Books
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Mary Hoffman said...

Thanks for your support, Lucy! This last week is a bit of a nailbiting finish but Sarah has worked so hard and we have come so far that we are hopeful we'll be able to go ahead.

Sarah Towle said...

Thanks so much for your wonderful post in support of our project and campaign, Lucy! In fact your timing is charmed as I just received word from a current backer that she is willing to DOUBLE every pledge that comes in today, 19 June!

This is precisely the kind of serendipity that has followed Mary and me on this journey so far. We are THRILLED!

Sue Bursztynski said...

This is going to be an app? Must check it out. It depends on the histories covered.

I had to teach Year 8 last year. It covered the Middle Ages, the Vikings, Japan and the Aztecs and Spanish. You make the best of what you have. I found that iMovie worked well for their assignments, and some did absolutely first class work. One young lady discovered to her delight that people slept naked in the Middle Ages. When we got to the Aztecs, she drew an Aztec God clutching a mug of hot chocolate. On Halloween, we had a lesson about the Aztecs, the Spanish and the Day of the Dead. One young man who came from Malaysia told us about the custom, in his country, of cleaning out the house and celebrating the dead when the first moths appear in the house. "Of course, that was usually in August," he added. We were told to give them primary sources, so I dug out those rude comments about Viking hygiene, one by Ibn Fadlan saying they were filthy, another by an English writer who complained those damn Vikings were so clean they were getting all the girls! I invited them to discuss and decide which one they believed. It's not easy to make history interesting, but you do what you can.