Time Odyssey

Embark on an enthralling immersive journey through time and space with Time Odyssey, a groundbreaking digital learning adventure for primary schools at museums all across the UK.

Guided by the enigmatic Watchers of the Warp, children explore museums’ collections and complete fun, creative challenges to help four young characters who have been displaced in time to get back to their homes in Ancient Egypt, Viking era Sweden, Ancient China and Roman Britain.

Created in partnership with the British Museum and arts and culture charity Art Explora with visual identity designed by Johnson Banks, the immersive experience transcends traditional learning, turning museum visits into a captivating adventure. Children leave animated, inspired, and with a newfound sense of belonging in museums which, as it turns out, are much more exciting than they could have ever imagined.

Breaking Down Barriers

Tailored specifically for 7-11 year olds on museum visits with their schools, Time Odyssey is an interactive adventure through time, space and (whisper it) the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Its key objectives focused on exploring the impact that new, playful forms of digital learning can have on engagement with museums amongst school children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds and those with little to no previous experience of visiting museums or other cultural institutions.

Schools often find museum visits challenging to organise, staff and even afford. Teachers also often lack the tools to leverage their impact in terms of curriculum-based learning. For some, these challenges are so great that they do not visit museums at all. Time Odyssey was designed to help overcome this, creating an experience that is:

  • Easy for schools to arrange and experience - including transport grants to / from the museum where needed
  • Exciting for teachers and students alike - a digital, immersive adventure using cutting-edge technology to bring the museum to life and challenge perceptions of what a museum visit is all about
  • Educational for students - creating a ‘sticky’ learning experience that leaves positive, lasting memories and forges deeper connection to the curriculum
  • Accessible and inclusive for all - using non-traditional learning methods and accessible design principles to ensure all students are able to enjoy the experience

Learning Through Play

The immersive narrative is designed to captivate young minds, dissolving the boundary between past and present, creating a dynamic learning experience that transcends traditional museum visits.  

Small groups of two or three classmates are armed with a 'Warp Deck' - actually Samsung S9 tablets in branded cases - which they use to follow the mysterious narrative and interact with the museums and their collections.

In balancing enjoyment with education, the key is ensuring that the kids' experience prioritises excitement, using game design to create lasting memories and deliver learning outcomes along the way. The characters come to life through illustration, animation, narration and augmented reality, using mini-games and challenges to immerse students into their historical origins and creating deeper connections to cultures past.

Time Odyssey's challenges encourage learning through creativity and play, fostering engagement with the museum’s objects. Children explore exhibits, discovering artefacts related to various themes and ‘capturing’ them to create the tools their characters need while gaining knowledge about the collection.

A Co-Created Adventure

Expert curators, educators, designers and developers from the British Museum, Art Explora and ARCADE co-created Time Odyssey’s thrilling adventure with schools around the country, aligning it with curriculum objectives. In the game, children connect with four characters representing key KS2 topics in Ancient Egypt, Shang Dynasty China, the Vikings, and Roman Britain.

Our young co-creators helped us to bring their stories to life through a series of gamified interactions, designed to foster exploration of the museum's collection on the hunt for objects that can help the characters get back home.

Museums Are Fun For All

The success of Time Odyssey is not only seen in its sell-out run to date, but its measurable impact on students’ learning and their altered perception of museums. By empowering young scholars to lead the way excitedly through cultural collections, device in hand and smile on face, we establish in their minds that museums are places of energy, wonder and fun - but most of all that they belong, and will be welcomed back with open arms.

Tech-Fuelled Inclusive Engagement

At the core of our innovation are technologies including AR and AI which we leverage to transform passive learning into an active, participatory experience. The speed and seamlessness with which students can move from digital to physical and back transforms them into time champions, solving puzzles, forging genuine emotional connections with characters from long ago and opening their eyes to the wonder of the historical artefacts all around them.

Digital learning can engage students who, for a variety of reasons, find traditional educational settings and techniques more challenging. Evaluation of the experience across a diverse range of hundreds of students showed that Time Odyssey is a hugely inclusive way to drive engagement and enthusiasm.

For safeguarding reasons the tablets had to remain offline throughout the experience, creating an interesting challenge in how to serve contextual content without being able to communicate directly with the devices themselves. The solution was to create a teacher's app - a version of Time Odyssey for teachers and assistants to use when guiding their classes through the galleries. With simple, intuitive inputs, teachers can bring up image markers for the students to scan, triggering the content in the at the right time and place.

A Flexible, Lasting Legacy

Time Odyssey is now on national release across museums throughout the UK. The initial concept was developed at the British Museum and Yorkshire Museum, with an extended pilot roll out in Q4 2023 which engaged dozens of schools and hundreds of children, but the intent from the start was always for Time Odyssey to run at museums nationwide. It was for this reason that the adventure was intelligently designed to work in any museum space, ensuring complete flexibility and the potential for long-lasting, scalable legacy in the UK and potentially beyond.

The result is an experience that exists at the forefront of the digital transformation, redefining how museums connect with primary school audiences and setting a new standard for educational engagement through play.

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We believe in testing out new ideas and innovating forms of engagement with arts and culture. Our hope is to see this experience touch all children across the country and a resurgence of visits by schools into our national museums!
Jemima Montagu, Director, Art Explora
I’ve got a lot of children with varying ability and different needs in my class. A boy who is selective mute, four children with autism, two with ADHD; it was accessible and appealed to every single one. It worked wonders! Nothing has done that before, especially when we've gone to a museum.
Year 5 Teacher