School River Challenge on the Emm Brook

While works are being planned to restore the Emm Brook in Riverside Park, Wokingham, the South East Rivers Trust has begun engaging the community through an interschool competition.

Primary schools in the area were all invited to take part in the School River Challenge.   Schools competed to get the most pupils to become certified Junior River Rangers.  The prize? A class set of river dipping equipment.

The competition was run over the June half term.  It was launched in each school with an assembly – delivered virtually over Zoom – in the week beginning 17th May.  Many teachers took the week before half term to undertake some of the Junior River Ranger activities as a class.  Children were then encouraged to complete the remaining activities with family and friends.  In the course of the competition, we received more than 300 hits on our Junior River Ranger webpage!

And the winner is... The Hawthorns Primary School!

By the end of the three-week competition, 13 pupils had fulfilled the requirements to become Junior River Rangers – three from Emm Brook Junior School, one from Westende Junior School and nine from the Hawthorns Primary School.

They all showed real enthusiasm and dedication.

Each qualifying child will receive their very own Junior River Ranger badge and certificate.

A special well done goes to the Hawthorns Primary School who had the most pupils complete the challenge.

An example of a pupil's work

Improving understanding of waterways

Education and engagement is at the heart of what we do as a Trust – improving people’s understanding of rivers so that the importance of the river to people and to wildlife is recognised.

For the Emm Brook Project, we had plans for a family festival – a day of river activities and public engagement.

With events like this unable to go ahead because of Covid restrictions, an alternative approach had to be found.

Our solution was the Emm Brook School River Challenge and it proved a huge success.

A very popular introduction to rivers

Finding a way to engage the public when activities have to happen remotely can be difficult.

Schools were used to reach the wider community.

Our virtual assemblies raised awareness of the river and outlined what improvements the project will bring.

Workshops about the river habitat were also delivered to individual year groups.

Leaflets about the project went home with pupils, explaining the works and providing links to our website for those who wanted to find out more.

To date, our webpage about the project has received nearly 1,000 hits.

The competition itself got children, their friends and their families to visit the river.

It is through activities like this that the river will become a valued community asset.

If people are out enjoying the river, then it will not only have an impact on those taking part but also on members of the public who witness the river being valued and enjoyed.

Thank you so much to all the children – and their friends and families –  who took part! Your enthusiasm and positive comments are greatly appreciated.