History - Back to the future

8th June 2012 at 01:00
Hop on Professor Quantum's time-travelling bus tour

Sometimes a monument is just a monument. or at least that's what my pupils seem to think as they look at me unenthusiastically while I witter on excitedly about historical sites. But what if I could take them back in time? Impossible, you say? Not with Professor Quantum's time-travelling bus tour.

I joined the professor as he guided us around London on his specially equipped bus, providing witty tales of both past and future. We were transported to sites that told the capital's life story, from the invasion of 1066 and the 17th-century English Civil War to the dark days of Jack the Ripper in 1888. We spoke via video phone to Samuel Pepys' maid - at the very moment the previous St Paul's Cathedral was burning in 1666 - and to the Duke of Wellington. We also witnessed the devastation of the Blitz during the Second World War.

The professor's attempts to truly transport us back in time were unsuccessful because of a failure of vital equipment (or so he said). But the screens inside the bus gave us a glimpse of the past and helped us to see how it had influenced the present.

Time Tours Ltd, the company behind London's Ghost Bus Tours, says it created the time-travelling adventure to encourage a younger audience to enjoy the history of the capital. Matthew Tibbey, the company's general manager, has worked in education for 10 years specialising in learning outside the classroom.

The Time Tour team offers pick-ups for school groups from King's Cross, Waterloo, Liverpool Street or Paddington. The bus is also available for private hire, visiting key heritage sites such as the Royal Observatory or the Tower of London.

Pupils will become investigators and take part in a scavenger hunt, finding hidden materials and creating an object relating to a chosen topic. Alternatively, they can take part in a camera challenge where they take a set of themed photos.

At the end of our trip I had the opportunity to discuss food, politics and 1980s cartoon series with Florence Nightingale and a girl from the future, which left me marvelling at the possible interpretations of the things we take for granted today, and wondering what our world might look like tomorrow. Whatever topic you explore, the professor's knowledge, quirkiness and sense of comedy bring history alive.


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