The Past Comes to Life

Bringing Pompeii and Herculaneum to Cambridgeshire Schools

Teacher Lynda Smith, posing as a Pompeian merchant, offers a bargain to a child as they recreate life in a Roman marketplace.

Nearly 300 schoolchildren in five Cambridgeshire schools explored Roman life through art, drama and roleplay before visiting the exhibit "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum" at the British Museum.

Welcome to the website of this special project, a rare collaboration between academics and primary school teachers modelling creative curriculum planning based on rigorous academic knowledge. The project was generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and organised by Civilizations in Contact, a charity linked to the University of Cambridge, which fosters better understanding of world history by demonstrating how different cultures have interconnected peacefully across time. In June and July 2013, 300 Key Stage 2 children (aged between 7 and 11) from five primary schools in challenging areas of Cambridge all experienced two days of in-depth, specialist teaching about the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD. Lessons were taught by Jane Bower, a specialist arts teacher, and by staff from History Off the Page, a Cambridgeshire-based company of teachers that creates immersive learning environments for children. The teaching drew on current academic knowledge from Civilizations in Contact, which was crucial to planning, and the activities culminated in a visit to the British Museum's world-class exhibition, "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum". Here the children performed rehearsed dances based on the events of the eruption and the later history of the sites. All this teaching was followed up with the delivery of loan boxes from local museums to the schools linking to the history of Roman Britain and Cambridgeshire.

This website is intended to disseminate the outcomes of the project, particularly to primary school teachers and other educators, both within and outside Cambridgeshire, who may wish to replicate its inspirational teaching methods in bringing ancient history to life.

Besides the Heritage Lottery Fund, other participants included Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge Central Library, Cambridge Archaeology Unit, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Museum of Classical Archaeology (all three museums are part of the University of Cambridge) and the museum at Girton College, Cambridge (Lawrence Room).

For further information about Civilizations in Contact, please visit