Aelius and the time portal

Aelius and the time portal is an interactive history lesson developed for children in the 3rd and 4th grade of primary school. The lesson is aimed at schools located in Dutch cities with a Roman history. The southern part of the Netherlands was part of the Roman empire, along with parts of countries such as Germany, the UK, Morocco and Turkey. The lesson shows young pupils that somewhere deep in the ground there is a rich Roman history to be found. Underneath their own feet there lies a large amount of Roman objects, Roman buildings and Roman stories. During the interactive history lesson, pupils help a young Roman boy and learn about the local history of their neighbourhood.

About the lesson

In short, the history lesson starts when a ‘professor’ (played by an actor) visits a class, introducing his invention to the young pupils: a time portal. A time portal is a ‘window’ that allows you not to look outside, but to look into the past. Since the pupils are literally on top of Roman history, the professor hopes to connect with the Roman era through the time portal. When the time portal is activated the children indeed connect with the Roman era. Together with the professor the pupils meet Aelius, a young Roman boy who has been locked up by his boss after he accidentally spilled some food. Aelius asks the children if they can help him escape his imprisonment by looking for different Roman objects with a ‘stuff seeker’.

The children go outside on a scavenger hunt to search for special tiles placed around their school. When scanning these tiles with the ‘stuff seeker’, the children learn about the object by a short story told by Aelius. Objects to be found are a lucky coin, a key, a chicken, Roman sandals, Roman army attire, a toga and a Civic Crown (corona civica). These objects all have had a significant meaning in the Roman history. For example: the lucky coin represents the shift from trade towards the use of money. Also, during the Roman era, exotic products such as dates and chicken from the south of the Roman empire were introduced to the north of the Roman empire (e.g. the Netherlands). Pupils are educated about the historical significance of the Roman objects and have to answer five questions on each of the objects.

After the pupils find the seven objects, they go back into the classroom to send the objects back to Aelius through the time portal. The key allows Aelius to unlock his prison, the sandals to protect his feet and the Civic Crown to give him status. Of course, the lucky coin brings back all his luck and Aelius gets to fulfill his dreams!

About the app

The ‘stuff seeker’ is an iPad with an Aelius app using augmented reality. There are seven tiles with AR-codes placed around schools in Utrecht. When these tiles are scanned with the iPad, a 3D-model of the object appears and Aelius describes his personal story and the historical significance related to the object.

About the project

The project started as a graduation project from students from Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) and Utrecht University. The project was initiated by the city of Utrecht and was part of the Portico student challenge, an international project among six student groups from the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands collaborating on different projects to preservate the cultural heritage and history of their own city in an innovative way.

A video presentation about Aelius and the time portal can be found by clicking here.
A short video impression can be found by clicking here.

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