Children under 10 have difficulties with history because they don't view time chronologically. However, a Swedish project has found that play and drama can help connect their make-believe world with historical facts.
The study of junior school-children and their teachers explored the link between past and present.
The historical theme was "far from home", focusing on emigration from Sweden to America a century ago and relating it to immigration today. A group of six- to nine-year-olds was asked to dramatise their own journey to America. After building a "ship" in the classroom, they developed both a story, and an interest in the historical events, and asked for non-fiction books about the period.
The 10 to 11-year-olds were less happy about dramatising their own story because it seemed too much like a game. They preferred to follow a script. But they too wanted to learn more about the history of Swedish migration.
In both cases, children acquired history awareness through play and drama, which inspired empathy, curiosity and a desire to learn.
"The Transition from Play to Learning: A study of historical learning" by Gunilla Lindqvist, Department of Educational Sciences, University of Karlstad, 651 88 Karlstad, Sweden.