Teaching children about ancient history is a monumental task. Making the Shang Dynasty, the Vikings and the death cults of Egypt at all engaging takes some real dressing up and some inspired creativity. And all of these aforementioned subjects have an innate theatricality to them on account of their respective power struggles and body counts. Try making Stonehenge, those inanimate 5000-year-old stones just sitting in the English countryside, appealing to children, or anyone for that matter.
The fact that Stonehenge has captured the imagination of historians and archeologists for centuries, as the history of the place is steeped in mystical lore and conjecture, hasn’t necessarily made it an easy sell for curious children. Even with the help of Spinal Tap, who sang a loving ode to this circular collection of rocks, didn’t do much to make Stonehenge any more than something to laud, and then laugh about.
Now comes British artist Jeremy Deller (former award winner of the coveted Turner Prize) with his bouncy scale model of Stonehenge, which is a lot more fun than reading about ancient history of the place. Deller’s Bouncy Stonehenge was recently unveiled at a park in Glasgow, Scotland, and will go on tour throughout the U.K. this summer (apologies to everyone else, but you have to go to the U.K. to see the real, and Bouncy Stonehenge). To be clear Deller is an artist, and not an educator, and his intention was to construct a conceptual piece of art and not necessarily educate the masses on pre-history. But Deller does claim that he constructed this touring ode to Stonehenge so Brits could “interact with it and enjoy British culture and heritage.” The interaction is key, as the true Stonehenge is now cordoned off and inaccessible for most people, so a bouncy simulacrum is the next best thing (see video here).
Is there any merit to teaching through this sort of interaction, or is it just good fun and whimsy? Can you imagine any other bits of history that would benefit from such a treatment? Maybe a bouncy Boston Tea Party with a water park component? Ideas of whimsy are encouraged.