Volunteer Anna Birt explains how hands on activities are the key to capturing a child's imagination.
Children love water. That's a fact and they seem to be drawn to it like magnets - the wetter, the better!
The Explorers education team know that the best way for children to learn about water-based science is to allow them to experience it for themselves. Using shallow trays of water, children are challenged to find a way of making a small ball of Plasticine float on water. They are amazed to discover that the same small ball which initially sank to the bottom of the tray, can be transformed into a mini, floating vessel just by changing its surface contact area with the water. We also have a competition to see whose boat can hold the most cargo - or in our case, the most five gram weights!
Another investigation we do is exploring which boat shapes travel best through water using five different shaped models. We try and explain the concept of fair testing. Each polystyrene boat must be blown along by a mini fan which is in the same position for each boat that gets tested. Here, children can see that a streamlined, narrow boat moves more efficiently through the water than one which is much wider.
Although the children we visit are all of primary school age, we always adapt what we teach to suit their level of understanding; more technical language is used with older children but we aim to keep it simple with the little ones.
Of course, children also need to know the dangers surrounding playing around water, particularly when near a river or canal; which is why another part of our outreach is to educate children about water safety. We pass around a mystery bag containing miniature-sized objects which children may come across near canals and riverbanks. After pulling one out, these then spark discussions as to the potential dangers they may have and what to do in an emergency. All the children get to take home with them one of our water safety booklets containing facts, puzzles and stickers - something else that children love!
The education team of the Trust has two main learning programmes: ‘Explorers’ and ‘STEM’. ‘Explorers’ is aimed at key stage 2 and provides free, curriculum linked learning resources for teachers and offers a range of outreach sessions to inspire children about our waterways. ‘Canal & River Trust – STEM’ has been developed with support from Rolls-Royce and is targeted at key stage 3. It aims to showcase the STEM learning opportunities along our waterways, and offers free outreach sessions to secondary schools cross England and Wales. Both programmes are delivered with the support of our fantastic education volunteers, who help bring the stories of our waterways to life.
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