Time is a tricky old thing. It passes in the flash of an eye yet can plod on forever. It can be hard to comprehend just how long ago the stone age was, or when the Vikings came to Scotland. To many children, World War 2 is an unfeasibly long time ago and there really isn’t much difference between that or the Romans. Both were just long, long ago.
To help children understand the sequence of events and the concept of time between historical events we like to use a scale timeline and to get the space required you can only really do this outside!
You can use meaningful pictures for this activity, a wooly mammoth, a roman legion, Neil Armstrong on the moon, the class photo to represent the kids being born etc.
We work on the premise 10years = 1cm, 100 years = 10cm and 1000 years = 1m. Children then measure out how long ago each event occurred, placing it on the line. This can be approached 2 ways.
You may wish to get older children to guess the correct order and where they may have happened. This can elicit some wonderful discussions. Once they have completed this give them the answers, check the measurements and see which team was most accurate.
Alternatively, you can give the children a note of each event and when it happened allow them to measure it out. Again, this is good for discussion and problem solving.
I like to stick the pictures to long bamboo skewers so they can poke them in the ground. I highlight the back of each set a different colour and this allows us to see which teams are accurate, and makes organising the resources nice an easy!
There is a fantastic timeline by Forestry Commission Scotland in their Outdoor Archaeological Learning booklet . This one uses lego characters or and has the answers if you are unsure of exact timings. The Forestry Commission talks about how you can show different time periods overlapping using cords and ribbons and has a lot of good ideas throughout this book.
This activity is fab as it links to your topic work, helps children understand the concept of chronology but also includes measuring. I also love how children can then remember the sequence of events weeks on from the lesson itself.
What history activities do you enjoy outdoors?