Seven reasons to put the local river on your school’s curriculum

Jonathan Dean, our Education Development Officer, plays a central role in developing and delivering the Trust’s education strategy. He oversees our formal education work, extending across all our catchments. Here, he shares his thoughts on why rivers should be an important part of the curriculum for any school in the south east of England.

Education is key to change

Rivers flow through our towns and cities. They provide our drinking water. We use them for transport. They are educational spaces and venues for recreation and relaxation.

Our rivers are under pressure, often distorted and diverted, degraded and damaged. The South East Rivers Trust is working to achieve healthy, thriving rivers for people and wildlife across the south east of England. The more people who understand the needs of their local river, the quicker we are going to see change for the better.

All of this means that connecting young people with their local river has never been more important.

Education will help pupils grasp the importance of rivers © South East Rivers Trust

Think local for big, long-term impact

1. It’s local. There are more than 15,000kms of rivers and streams across the south east. As well as highlighting all the river features you would expect to find in a geography textbook, studying your local river can be a conduit to local history, science, design and technology, art and literature.

2. It makes an impact. The south east of England is a water-stressed region. This means that the demand for water is larger than the water available in the landscape. Giving your pupils greater awareness of the problem is one important way to help.

3. It supports standards and raises attainment. Personal, social and emotional development are recognised benefits of outdoor learning and can support nature-connectedness. Spending time learning outdoors can equip young people with confidence in negotiation, diplomacy and tact that will empower them to act as ambassadors for the planet, now and in the future.

4. It’s preparation for a green career. In the future, all jobs can be green jobs. Everyone will play their part in meeting net-zero targets, reducing landfill and reducing water use. The creative solutions required to tackle the issues faced by our changing climate will only come about when there is a strong understanding of our environment and its current management.

Local education on your nearby river makes the subject accessible © South East Rivers Trust

Rivers need to rise up the agenda

5. It’s a chance to be a game-changer. According to the Eco Schools website, when it comes to taking environmental action, water is the least popular of 10 topics among pupils of primary school age.

This is astonishing given that water is the lifeblood of our ecosystems and essential to humans’ existence. The low ranking demonstrates just how far there is to go to ensure that pupils understand the importance of water.

Showing pupils how to care for rivers is a great way to empower them to take water-saving action in their school community; to take the opportunity to turn the tide and to put our most precious resource front and centre of their priorities.

Education sessions are engaging © South East Rivers Trust

We have the experience to help

6. It’s easy. The South East Rivers Trust is here to help. We educated 1,708 young people in the 2021-22 academic year.

Our school sessions deliver the fundamental elements of environmental education:

  • Education about the environment
  • Education for the environment and
  • Education in the environment

We teach children about their local rivers, empowering them with knowledge. We give them procedural understanding of how they can take action for their environment – and we do it in their local area.

Our education sessions include our Project Kingfisher ones either in classrooms or along the water’s edge on the Hogsmill, Beverley Brook and Wandle rivers. For schools in Crawley, we’re also putting on lessons at Gratton’s Park, on the Gatwick Stream. These are called Our River, Our Water and emphasise water saving as well as how important water is to nature.

Pupils charting wildlife during an education session © South East Rivers Trust

Feedback from teachers tells us …

7. It’s fun! And don’t take our word for it, here’s what just some of last year’s participants said:

  • “[The children] absolutely loved it. We’ve tried to go on lots of trips this year to make up for the lack of trips [over the past two years] and quite a few of them said this was the best one we have done all year.”
  • “The children loved the trip, especially the part where they caught insects. [They] gave very positive feedback, one child having said it was the best day ever.”

For more information about our education sessions, visit our education page or email

Watch our promotional video for Our River Our Water here.

Our sessions generate great feedback © South East Rivers Trust