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Primary school wildlife lessons reach more children than ever before

Year 2 pupils at St. Bridget’s Catholic Primary School in Egremont enjoying a Wild Rivers class © St. Bridget’s Catholic Primary School

Nearly 2,000 primary school pupils took part in West Cumbria Rivers Trust’s programme of free river days and assemblies for schools in 2019, and the charity aims to reach even more children this year thanks to new funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation, United Utilities and Sellafield Ltd.

Staff from the Trust run a range of fun, hands-on sessions for schools, all designed to help teachers deliver National Curriculum geography and science and engage children in the natural environment and its conservation.

Year 2 pupils at St. Bridget’s Catholic Primary School in Egremont enjoying a Wild Rivers class © St. Bridget’s Catholic Primary School

In 2019, funding from Copeland Community Fund and United Utilities enabled 1,005 Key Stage 2 pupils in Copeland and 979 in Allerdale to take part in sessions, making it the biggest year so far for the programme.

West Cumbria Rivers Trust has now been awarded £25,000 by the Garfield Weston Foundation to continue its work with schools, and Sellafield Ltd is providing further funding as part of its People on the Keekle project with the Trust.

Cathy Gruba, Learning and Engagement Officer at West Cumbria Rivers Trust, said: “It’s always fantastic to see how inspired the kids get by the amazing creatures that live in our rivers and lakes.

“Getting to know their local wildlife really helps children understand why it’s so important to conserve our freshwater systems. Inspiring the next generation to protect and enhance these habitats will benefit the area for generations to come, by helping to reduce flood risk and increase biodiversity.”

The Trust offers a range of programmes. Wild Rivers days combine classroom learning about rivers and their wildlife with a field trip where youngsters can river dip, do wildlife surveys and suggest ideas to improve the river based on what they learnt in the classroom. Mussels in the Classroom sees pupils learn about the critically endangered freshwater mussel which has its last stronghold in England in the rivers of Copeland. The newest addition to the line-up is People on the Keekle, teaching children about plastic pollution and its impact on the environment by exploring West Cumbria Rivers Trust’s project to remove a plastic liner from the River Keekle.

Laura Fergie, Year 6 Teacher at Seaton St. Paul’s Church of England Junior School, said: “Our children really enjoyed the sessions provided by West Cumbria Rivers Trust. The river dipping trips are still talked about regularly by our children as it helped them develop key geography skills. Cathy helps children of all abilities feel included and every child is fully engaged in her sessions.

“We are excited to widen these brilliant opportunities to other year groups within our school as they provide unforgettable memories for our children whilst teaching them about their local environment and how we can be safe in it and protect it.”

Schools in Copeland and Allerdale can book free sessions by contacting Cathy Gruba at West Cumbria Rivers Trust. Sessions are designed for Key Stage 2 but can be adapted for Key Stage 1.

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