Project in action

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Class: 32 Year 5Year 6 children

Start of the project: we looked at water sources in the village. We walked the ground and plotted village springs and wells on an outline of a local map. We also gathered some local knowledge about water supplies from wells in the 1930s and 1940s (oral history).

Follow-up: Where does our water come from?

What process does rain go through to get to the taps in our home (revision of the water cycle)?

Look at reservoirs, local artesian wells and the Thames pumping stations.

How much does water cost? Look at water bills. We also got sidetracked into looking at charities that provide clean water to needy areas abroad.

Do a geographical study of the course of the Thames, focusing on its origins (map work including use of six-figure references).

Teaching methods: although there were a number of class lessons, much of the work was tackled by pairs of children with equipment such as Ordnance Survey maps. They sometimes combined in larger groups for fieldwork and other tasks.

Outcomes: pupils compiled a folder of their work and illustrated the cover with their own drawings and photographs. We produced a wall display on the river and a class assembly. We collected and displayed tourist leaflets on the river and associated attractions.

Trip: We visited the source of the Thames and National Nature Reserve site at Cricklade.

Most useful equipment: a set of Ordnance Survey maps was sufficient for all pupils to be "hands-on".

Most striking outcome: an illustrated and annotated wall map of the Thames produced by the class.

Most surprising success: a visit to North Meadow, Cricklade. Children were fascinated by the wildlife, flowers, birds and fish. It was meant to be a short stop in a field en route to the source of the Thames, but we stayed for ages.

Most enjoyable bit: learning the song "Sweet Thames Flow Softly" after listening to a record of it. The class couldn't get it out of their heads.

We used it in our class assembly at the end of the project.

Useful teacher tip: choose your focus and stick to it. Rivers and water are big subjects and it's easy to dissipate your energy by going off at tangents (we did a bit).

Beyond the Thames

Gerald Haigh suggests ways of extending the project for other rivers: Use maps of different scales. Look at the geography of the river's source.

Is it in hills or mountains? Is there a single identifiable source or do a number of small streams form the river?

Look for settlements, crossing points, flood plains. What are the relationships between these? (Are settlements at crossing points? Are flood plains inhabited?) Look at the river's end. Is there an estuary? Is your river a tributary of another?

Prepare for fieldwork: study the area you'll visit and place it in relation to the rest of the river. Are you on the flood plain? Are you at a crossing-point? Are you at the highest navigable point?

At the place you visit for your field trip, is the river used for transport or leisure, or is it ignored? Can you see potential for development?

Use fieldwork to identify the nature of the river at the point of your visit. Is it tidal? Are there signs of previous floods? There may be flood defences, for example.

Are there any controversial issues, such as those concerning flood protection, inappropriate buildings, industrial pollution? Talk to local people and read local papers.

What plants and animals do you find in the riverside environment?

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