Chiltern Open Air Museum

A trip to Chiltern Open Air Museum, in Buckinghamshire, offers schools the chance to take part in a Goodnight Mister Tom Literacy theme day, among others.

Chiltern Open Air Museum (COAM) is a living museum that consists of 35 rescued historic buildings which represent more than 2,000 years of architecture. Included amongst the historic buildings is a reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse, built after an archaeological dig near Dunstable, and Medieval and Tudor barns.

There is also a selection of Victorian buildings including a working farm, toll house and forge, a chapel, vicarage room and the newly rebuilt cottage, made from local earth called wychert.

In the modern collection there is 1940s post war housing, a military hut and a furniture factory.

The museum runs workshops and themed days for schools which tie in with the Literacy, History and Science curriculum. 

The Goodnight Mister Tom theme day is a creative writing, Literacy themed day based on the story of Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.

The story of Goodnight Mister Tom follows a young boy evacuated during World War Two as he goes to stay with Tom Oakley, an elderly recluse.

What does the day involve?

The day begins with an experience of the Blitz complete with noise, to represent how uncomfortable and unpleasant aspects of war-time life was in the cities.

The pupils will then be ‘evacuated’ to the museum’s Village Green where they will find themselves accommodated by costumed staff posing as characters from the story, such as Mr Tom Oakley himself, Mrs Hartridge inside the school, or Mrs Brant in her 1940s home.

Sessions throughout the day will be given by educators in order to bring the story to life and engage students in the 1940s, as well as History and Literature.

The themed day is aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils.

Pictured: Goognight Mister Tom theme day.

Other Literacy theme days

Chiltern Open Air Museum also offers Literacy theme days based on other stories, including: Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver; Key Stage 1 days based on The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and The Three Little Pigs.

The museum also offers a habitat based theme appropriate for Key Stage 1 based on the story of Owl Babies by Martin Waddell.

All the museum’s theme days are cross-curricular combining aspects of History and Literacy as well as at times referencing aspects of Maths and Science.

Science and Nature

For schools wanting to expand their involvement with nature, COAM covers 45 acres including woodland, two ponds, a farm and historic buildings.

Due to its location and environment, the museum is also in a good position for visiting schools to look into insect adaptation. Supervised activities can be arranged that allow pupils to explore how insects adapt to their habitats.

Available workshops including Aquatic Insects, Woodland Insects and Grassland Insects.

Other Science workshops around the museum involve the topic of materials and look into brickwork, lighting and cooking.

Year 5 and 6 pupils can also take part in an Insect Adaptation Theme Day which explore habitats and classification.

For more information visit