For Secondary Schools

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Students from the Oxford Academy carrying out water quality monitoring.

It is important to educate children about the environment and promote respect for it. Rivers are often a small part of the school curriculum at primary and secondary stages but are a greatly varied and interesting subject. The River Thame Conservation Trust welcomes contact from any schools wishing to get involved with monitoring and conserving the river.

The subject of rivers can be brought in to enrich many parts of the school curriculum at both GCSE and A Level, particularly Biology, Chemistry and Geography. The effect can be profound if pupils are taken outdoors and get involved with the environment, rather than being restricted to classroom work.  This is because their horizons are broadened and they realise how the subject relates to real life, and their place in the environment. When this is taken back into the classroom, theory and discussion become much more relevant to them, and the core concepts gained will do a lot to improve exam results.

We are always looking to hear from proactive teachers, teaching assistants and students who wish to incorporate the River Thame in to their learning. Do get in touch.

Jack Peers Pond Survey

Students from the Oxford Academy surveying some ponds created during a joint project with Freshwater Habitats Trust

Other sources of curriculum material and ideas:

The Freshwater Habitats Trust: all ages can get involved with the Clean Water for Wildlife project, which teaches about the causes and effects of pollution in waterways, giving hands on experience in testing water. It is free to take part in this community survey and the data collected will help conservation efforts on a larger scale. You can also take part in their Big Pond Dip project if there is a pond in the school or the children can do it at home. Their website also has lots of great general information about different freshwater habitats and the species that live in them.
http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/
The River and Rowing Museum in Henley welcomes school groups for visits and has a range of workshops for key stage 1 and 2 students. These touch on the subjects of Science, Geography, History and Maths, as well as Art, Music and PE. There are also resources available on their website which can be used in the classroom.
http://rrm.co.uk/schools
The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority provide curriculum based learning programmes for all ages. They get children working in the field to give them hands on experience and an appreciation for the environment.
http://thamesriver.on.ca/education-community/environmental-education/
The Rivers Trust is a charity based in England and Wales which promotes education about rivers at a young age. Their website includes a set of simple animations showing some river formations and there is also a primary school education pack which can be downloaded and used in the classroom.
http://www.theriverstrust.org/education/index.html
The Thames Explorer Trust runs a wide range of educational programmes – you can organise for their staff to come to your school and teach workshops including information on geographical features of rivers as well as the wildlife that inhabits them and human impacts on it. They have pre-school and key stage 1 and 2 programmes which are usually day long workshops.
http://www.thames-explorer.org.uk/Thames-Education/
The Clyde in the Classroom was a project set up in Scotland to promote awareness of river ecology in young people. It involves children hatching brown trout in the classroom and releasing them into the wild to engage them with their local environment. Although this may not be possible in your area, similar project ideas could be a great addition to the curriculum.
http://www.clydeintheclassroom.com/
The Canal & River Trust are a charity that maintain 2000 miles of waterways in England and Wales. You can book for their volunteers to lead visits to many waterside destinations across the UK as well as come in to your school – all activities are linked into the curriculum. There are also learning resources that are free to download from their website including lesson plans and activity sheets, as well as educational games for children to play online. Their resources are designed for key stage 2 children but can be adapted for key stage 1.
https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/explorers
The National Geographic Society website has a number of lesson plans and activities about rivers – just search “rivers” in the teaching resources section. These include game based and project based learning and are organised by the age of students.
http://nationalgeographic.org/education/teaching-resources/

Learning about nature is best done in the field, so any trips to nature reserves or local rivers and ponds are extremely beneficial to children and are also a lot of fun. Fundraising events can raise funds and awareness for any freshwater charity while teaching kids about why the rivers need help and what can be done with the money they raise. Please feel free to get in touch with the River Thame Conservation Trust if you would like any information about the river and the local area.