Category Archives: Education

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Rothschild grant enables COAM to subsidise school visits

Head of Learning, Jo Lonsdale, tells us how a grant from the Rothchild Foundation enabled us to welcome school children who would not have otherwise been able to visit and take part in our award winning learning programme due to financial barriers….

As a direct result of the Rothschild Foundation’s 2018-2019 Local and Community Grant contribution, we have been able to provide 462 primary aged children with access to our immersive Sandford Award winning Learning programme.

School children building shelters

Through this Rothschild grant, we were able to offer outdoor learning opportunities to pupils from schools within ten miles of the Waddesdon Estate. These children would otherwise have not been able to benefit from such learning and enrichment outcomes due to the geographical distance of their schools; The Museum is not accessible by public transport and so schools face costs of coach travel and charges for admission and learning provision as financial barriers to entry.

COAM subsidised visits for 462 school children in Years 1-6 across eight different Buckinghamshire schools.  Through the funding, 27 authentic, experiential educational workshops were delivered during March – October 2019.

During these sessions the children engaged in cross-curricular hands-on activities allowing them to access the formal curriculum across subjects such as history, science, english, maths, and design & technology.

Not only did these workshops bring the curriculum to life, but the beautiful environment of the Museum site itself promotes positive mental health and well-being. There are many benefits to being immersed in our environment: children can travel back in time and be inspired by our rescued historic buildings and explore the outdoor setting of woodlands, meadows, ponds and beautiful gardens. Being able to enjoy the historic working farm with its animals and playground spread across wide open spaces connected to nature and greenery helps develop happy, healthy children to become confident, independent and resilient learners.

COAM delivers excellent outdoor learning provision in bushcraft, orienteering and archery (having a permanent Outdoor Learning specialist and qualified Forest School practitioner) designed to facilitate team building, problem solving and survival/life skills, along with encouraging social interaction and communication.

Direct outcomes of the Rothschild grant have been:

  1. Subsidised engagement and inclusivity for pupils from mainstream and special schools.
  2. Stronger relationships with those schools to encourage repeat visits and provide access to new children.
  3. Improved SEND provision and enhanced learning activities to promote local children’s cultural capital.
  4. Support for teachers to meet the demands of the new Ofsted framework from May 2019 to provide teaching and learning opportunities within a broad and balanced curriculum.

Teacher and pupil feedback

Teacher evaluation stated their visit benefited their pupils by:

‘The trip was a very positive experience for the children. There were many comments such as “I wish all of our days could be like this”.’

‘Providing practical activities made the learning more relevant, supported our topic and reinforced knowledge and understanding.’

‘Visiting a historical environment made them think about life in a different era without modern comforts and supported the development of empathetic skills. One child asked ‘why didn’t they have lights?’ – before visiting this child had no concept that life in the past was different to now.’

‘Provided an opportunity to be taught by other adults other than school staff and gave pupils the chance to show them the same level of respect as they do school staff.’

‘Provided the opportunity for the children to receive lots of praise and help build their self-esteem.’

‘Enabled the children to look forward to other school trips without anxiety, some children could potentially find trips offsite stressful and difficult.’

Jo Lonsdale
Head of Learning at COAM


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We’ve been Shortlisted for a Museums + Heritage Award

Museums + Heritage AwardWe’re really excited to have been shortlisted in the Museums + Heritage Awards 2018, under the Education Initiative for our literacy theme days for primary schools. In our industry this is the equivalent to being nominated for a BAFTA, so we’re very excited and very proud of our team. We’re shortlisted with some really big names including: Leeds Museums and Galleries, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, The Royal Parks, UCL Museums and Collections and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

To develop our literacy theme days we used the Talk4Writing approach. We focused on set texts (Wolf Brother, Goodnight Mister Tom and the Little Red Hen) which we then brought to life using characters (both actual and inferred). During our theme days children meet these characters, interact with them and re-live aspects of life ‘in the past’ within the story context.

Our collection of historic buildings and farm provide us with a unique setting to bring these stories to life. We found that children assimilate real knowledge by experiencing historical buildings with authentically dressed internal spaces: they learn ‘by stealth’ about these different periods in time while interacting with characters from a story known to them. Further details on our literacy theme days can be found here.

The winners will be announced at a glitzy award ceremony in London on the 16th May – wish us luck!


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Wolf Brother author Michelle Paver visits COAM

Wolf Brother author Michelle Paver helps literacy come alive at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Author of Wolf Brother, Michelle Paver came to Chiltern Open Air Museum in May to launch a new Wolf Brother literacy theme day. She chatted with school children about how she created her stories telling them tales of her own experiences meeting wolves and tasting seal blubber! Pupils from Booker Hill School in High Wycombe and Rickmansworth Park School took part in the launch day with Michelle and described the day as ‘a wonderful experience, full of excitement, anticipation and belief’.

Michelle’s page turning Wolf Brother book has sold over a million copies and is the first in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. The Wolf Brother story is set six thousand years ago.  Evil stalks the land, and only twelve-year-old Torak and his wolf-cub companion can defeat it.  Their journey together takes them through deep forests, across giant glaciers, and into dangers they never imagined.

Michelle Paver at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Michelle Paver with the Deer Mage at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Staff at the Museum have created the atmosphere of the story using a replica Mesolithic camp site and woodlands on the Museum’s grounds. Using actor educators, who remain in character through-out, the Wolf Brother story is brought to life, enriching children’s imaginations and immersing them in the story. During the theme day children are asked to ‘walk into the story’ and ‘live in it’ as they meet characters inferred from the Wolf Brother plot.  Through these meetings children gain some understanding of what it was like to live during the Stone Age era. They meet with the Deer Mage in his secret camp and create a totem to protect themselves against the huge evil, killer bear who is hunting Torak. They also meet with a Stone Age hunter who shows them the high value and significance placed on each part of an animal. Finally, they create a Stone Age replica weapon or a ‘journey stick’ as they travel through the Museum grounds and woodland following in the steps of Torak’s wolf cub and his ‘wolf speak’ descriptions.

Michelle Paver signing Wolf Brother books

Michelle Paver signing copies of Wolf Brother

Museum Education Officer, Cathy Silmon who has 22 years working in primary education, believes that when a story context is explored and brought to life, children feel empowered and that this ‘empowering’ then makes a real impact on the quality of their writing.

School children holding up copies of Wolf Brother

Some of the school children that met Michelle Paver at the Wolf Brother literacy theme day launch

Feedback from schools who have attended literacy theme days at the Museum has been fantastic;

The day after the trip the kids were amazing, retelling the story of Little Red Hen, even children who normally say nothing were talking and adding their own bits… We are expecting great work from them in the coming weeks.’

The Museum offers literacy theme days exploring Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, The Three Little Pigs and Owl Babies. All are cross-curricular theme days that combine both history and literacy.

The Wolf Brother literacy Theme Day is now available to book.

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