Creating Our Learning Environment Part 3: The Interactive Timeline Wall

I think it will become apparent that learning cannot be turned off, that given a rich environment, learning becomes like the air—it’s in and around us.
— Sandra Dodd

The interactive timeline wall is a large part of our learning environment. For more in our series on building our learning space, please click here.

Since the beginning of our educational experiment, the kids would put important dates they learned from history onto a giant timeline. In July 2014 we repainted the central living room of the Base to make way for a performance room, so we had to remove the timeline that the children have been building since we began the Base.

But luckily we used this opportunity to make a new and improved interactive timeline– our combined timeline and map wall allows the children to put historical events in context both chronologically and geographically. The learners add to the timeline as before, but they also draw lines between the date and where things actually took place!

In November 2014, we started the History Forest Project at the Base. We took several weeks to look over the whole of history for a big picture perspective before researching more deeply into specific time periods and regions.

As we moved through different eras of history, teams of learners and mentors created artistic projects to share their research with the others. The collaboration between adults and young learners gives the opportunity for a cross-generational and international approach to our research – and we had a lot of fun along the way.

During this project we put all of our dates and times and places up on the wall. We also decided to add all the Chinese dynasties on the timeline so that the children will know what was happening in China during any point of history. This site-specific context reflects our experiments in place-based learning for the kids.

Our team’s great work on the History Project culminated in a beautiful, updated Interactive Timeline Wall! With all that we learned during our weeks of research and projects, we put together explanations of the most important events throughout world history.

We realized there are too many dates, facts, and places to keep the map organized with our previous system, so we simplified the layout! Arrows now point from locations on the map to the corresponding dates on the timeline, where explanations give an overview of the most important events that shaped our present world.

The next step for our learners is to tackle the great spin-off questions that came up over the course of the History Project!

If you’re interested in doing a big picture of history with your kids or students, we recommend resources such as Crash Course World History and the Big History Project.

The interactive timeline wall is a large part of our learning environment. For more in our series on building our learning space, please click here.