Throughout June and July we have had the wonderful opportunity to work with five schools and over 300 pupils along the length of the River Culm. We started with Churchstanton Primary School at the head of the river and worked our way down to Stoke Canon C of E Primary School at the end of the river where the Culm meets the Exe. During our school visits we ran hands-on interactive sessions where the pupils explored the River Culm through maps, photographs and the beautiful illustrations created by the artist Richard Carman. We travelled back through time to discover how the Culm has changed over millennia and how people have always used and connected with the river. We discussed climate change, the problems it will cause in the future and how we can work with nature to adapt to these challenges. The children created their own mini river catchments full of trees, water meadows, wetlands, beaver lodges, hedgerows and other nature-based solutions to show how working with nature can help the river adapt to wetter winters and hotter summers.
When we had the opportunity, we went for walks along the river and looked at historic maps and Lidar images to spot old river channels and look for ways to help the landscape hold more water and slow the flow of the river. We also put on our wellies and went into the river to take kick samples and discovered the amazing range of fresh water invertebrates that live beneath the surface. These opportunities gave the children the chance to see their local stretch of the river or discover new parts of the Culm that they had not visited before. Being at, and in, the river is always more exciting than just talking about it!
It has been a privilege to sit and chat about the river with the children. We enjoyed hearing about their favourite places to visit – where they love swimming, paddling, fishing, playing, spotting wildlife, walking and picnicking – and also hearing about their disappointment when a river swing has broken or their den has fallen down.
The most inspiring part of every session, however, is when we get to listen to the children’s ideas about what they would like the river to be like when they are grown up. Their love for wildlife, their ideas for change, their enthusiasm for making it a place that is celebrated and cared for. Importantly, they want to be able to connect with the river, to play by the river (as even adults should play) and for it to bring communities together. We came to the conclusion that the river will be in good hands when these children are looking after it in the future!
If any other schools would like to be involved in our education programme then do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Blog by Cat Farnell. Images used with permission.
Main image: Looking over the floodplain at Columbjohn on the Killerton Estate.
Image 2: River dipping in the River Culm;
Image 3: Reviewing Richard Carman’s illustrations next to the River Culm;
Image 4: Exploring historic maps at Columbjohn;
Image 5: Fieldtrip to explore the River Culm and surrounding landscape at Columbjohn on the Killerton Estate;
Image 6: Field trip to the River Culm at Culmstock.
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