See all stories
7 Feb 2023

Putting time travel on the curriculum

Written by Paul Williams
Four school children in a green uniform stand around a wooden desk, holding a precious locket in a safe box. Jackie Bird stands behind them.
Trust President Jackie Bird helps pupils from St Vincent’s Primary School, Glasgow to uncover the hidden treasure as part of our pilot education programme.
The National Trust for Scotland’s President Jackie Bird is supporting the pilot of our new Timesliders education programme, which uses time travel to get school pupils excited about the history of Scotland.

Jackie visited Pollok House on Wednesday 1 February to join local schoolchildren from St Vincent’s Primary at a trial session of Timesliders, the Trust’s pilot education programme.

Jackie accompanied the pupils as they took part in a series of escape room style challenges to help Timesliders’ fictional heroes, Kyla and Eden. The characters are travelling through Scotland’s past, present and future to try to stop their adversaries from rewriting history.

In this short video, the National Trust for Scotland’s Senior Heritage Learning Advisor Sarah Cowie is joined by members of the team behind the Timesliders education programme to discuss its development.



Four voices: Sarah Cowie (SC); Ben Humphrey (BH); Stephen Allan (SA); and Jackie Bird (JB)

My name is Sarah Cowie and I'm Senior Heritage Learning Advisor for the Trust.
Timesliders is our new programme for school pupils.
It's really about engaging pupils who might not normally come to a Trust venue or haven't visited us before. We're looking at bringing in pupils from Glasgow to Pollok House and engaging them in different and innovative ways --using technology, using theatre and using different activities and experiences.
I've been out at schools seeing pupils taking part in the project so far, and I've seen that they get a really different experience than they would get in the classroom.
Teachers have been telling us that it really brings history and science to life for them in a different way, and it's really encouraging the teachers to look at their curriculum and how they can update it and change it.
The other thing that I really want pupils to get from it is to feel that Pollok is a place that they can come and visit with their families, and that the Trust is an organisation that looks after Scotland's history, heritage and nature.

I am a theatrical director and writer. I've spent most of my professional life so far working in theatre -- classical theatre, children's theatre and pantomime.
The programme itself -- the podcasts themselves -- they follow the adventures of Kyla and Eden who are timesliders, or time travellers, across Scotland's history and heritage.
And they go all over the place trying to stop the dastardly Professor Curran.
They travel all over Scotland, all throughout Scotland's timelines and they meet some of the key individuals and some of the not-so-key individuals and they have these wonderful adventures that we want people across Scotland to then become a part of.

I'm Stephen Allan. I'm a Learning Consultant and I've been working with the National Trust for Scotland over the last couple of years to help develop a learning strategy and the Timesliders pilot project.
The purpose of Timesliders is to create a really creative and innovative set of learning programmes and resources to try to bring to life National Trust for Scotland sites and properties in a way that hasn't been done before, to really sort of animate those spaces as well as provide a set of digital learning resources that can be used.
What we really want them to do is to enthuse about it, for teachers to be engaged, to see the value of it with the Curriculum for Excellence and to start to use National Trust for Scotland properties as part of their own learning.

I think on paper it sounded great. And in reality it was actually even better.
To see the faces of the children, to hear their enthusiasm and to see how much they engaged with it, it was just a great experience.
Feeling the enthusiasm of the children and then realising the subtlety of the programme, that it isn't just about history: it's about team building; it's about mathematics; it's about learning skills.
It's about so much more than just history, without the children actually knowing that it's a learning experience.

The programme, which aims to engage primary school pupils through storytelling, began with a theatre show – The natural history of Scotland in 30 minutes – performed at three local primary schools at the start of January. Pupils then digitally travelled back in time through a series of podcasts in the classroom, taking them to the heart of the action with Kyla and Eden, before being called to assist the time travellers at Pollok House. Here, they tested their numeracy, literacy and teamwork skills in a variety of problem-solving activities to help a historical figure escape from a portrait!

Jackie Bird said: ‘I was excited to visit Pollok House in my role as the National Trust for Scotland’s President to see Timesliders in action. It’s such a creative and fun way to get children interested in, and excited about, the history of Scotland. The National Trust for Scotland cares for and protects many of Scotland’s special places, from impressive landscapes to historic houses.’

“It’s fantastic to see how these places, their history and their notable figures have captured imaginations here today.”
Jackie Bird
President of the National Trust for Scotland
A lady with shoulder-length red hair stands in front of a wooden fence. She has her hands in her jeans pockets and is smiling at the camera.

The programme has been developed by the Trust’s Senior Heritage Learning Advisor Sarah Cowie, alongside Schools Co-ordinator Jill Kirkwood, Creative Consultant Ben Humphrey and Learning Consultant Stephen Allan. Sarah said: ‘Through the generosity of everyone who supports our charity, we are able to create fun, innovative education programmes such as Timesliders, to help us grow the next generation of heritage heroes, who can carry on our vital work to conserve our special places and ensure that their nature, beauty and heritage continue for future generations.’

The programme will be evaluated during this pilot phase to understand how it can be developed further, following feedback from teachers and pupils. Subject to funding, the Trust plans to roll out the programme to other properties and regions, inviting pupils across the country to take part.

The work by the Public Engagement and Research team at Pollok House to develop new learning opportunities about our properties contributes to the Trust’s overall vision to deliver nature, beauty and heritage for everyone. Our 10-year strategy, unveiled in March 2022, refocuses our vision of caring for, sharing and conserving Scotland’s heritage. This programme will contribute to our engagement objectives, specifically to provide inspiring heritage visitor experiences and be a learning organisation that champions skills to support traditional conservation and innovation.

  • Update 20/11/23: Pollok House closed on 20 November 2023 for approximately two years to facilitate the second phase of a £4 million programme of investment led by Glasgow City Council.

Our Strategy

Our new strategy – Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone – provides a framework for the future of the National Trust for Scotland as we look towards our centenary in 2031.