Education Services Coordinator, Emily Fulda, tells us why engaging children with our waterways will shape the future of the Trust.
When people ask what our team does, I tell them we engage children with our waterways and teach them about the history and nature that you can find along them. Responses are usually along the lines of, 'that's nice, what a lovely job!'
They're right! It is a lovely job. But we don't do it just because it's great fun, that's a bonus. We do it because it's vital to securing the future of our waterways.
The truth is, our waterways today aren't used for what they were built for and they're no longer fundamental to the industry of our country. But this isn't the future we are trying to safeguard. In retring from their industrial past, our waterways have become idyllic places for people to enjoy. Places to escape the stresses of modern life, to observe a wide array of nature and to become part of a community. Our waterways are a place to belong. This is what we're trying to conserve because, well, why wouldn't you want to protect something so special?
Luckily, the sanctity our waterways is no secret. We have thousands of advocates working hard to protect them, from the engineers that maintain the lock gates to the hoards of volunteers that donate their time across all areas of the Trust. This is brilliant - but to maintain this legacy we need to look ahead. That's where Explorers comes in. We spark children's interest in our waterways from a young age, so that the next generation will want to protect our waterways too.
How do we do it? Storytelling. We bring the stories of the waterways to life. We point out rope marks on the bridges from when horses used to tow. We squeeze children into the cabins of heritage boats to show how squashed it was for boating families. We get them to pond dip for animals that have made their homes along the canal, just like humans did all those years ago. Once children understand why our waterways are there, they can't wait to participate in what they have to offer today.
So that's what we do. We spark a child's imagination and turn them into Canal & River Explorers. Not just because it's fun, but because if we don't, then who will care for our waterways in years to come?
The Education Team delivers two main learning programmes. Explorers which is aimed at primary school children and uniformed groups, and STEM which is aimed at secondary schools. We provide free, curriculum linked learning resources for teachers and offer a range of outreach sessions to inspire children and young people about our waterways. Our fantastic Education Volunteers deliver sessions on the towpath or in school, bringing the stories of our waterways to life.
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