Thames Adventures: River Science in Action for Family Learning


If you are home-educating this workshop is for you and your family to learn about the Thames and river geography in an interactive, exploratory, hands-on way.

We consider adults as learners too, and we feel that everyone has something interesting to learn from our historic Dutch Barge and from the unique environment of Teddington Lock. ‘Thames Adventures’ is based on our boat Thames Venturer, moored at Teddington Lock; learning workshops are mainly outdoors, in, about and with the local environment. For more details on what you will learn, see below.


This is the second year we will be offering family learning, having piloted our offer in 2018. We’ve had good feedback, and learned a lot from the families who’ve come on board.  If you’d like to know about future dates, join our family learning mailing list.book_here_button4

Book a 2019 Thames Adventures date today, from £25 per family:
Wednesday Wednesday 31st July, Wednesday 23rd October


What will we do on the day?

  • hands_ropeThames Adventures introduces Learners to Thames Venturer, a Dutch barge made in 1908. We begin by exploring and learning a little about her history, as well as some safety tips aboard. We explore the water cycle and create our own river, complete with all the geographical features that real rivers have. We go ashore and observe Teddington Lock in action, learn about how locks work and why they are important. There are several self-access discovery activities based at and around the lock: a history detectives activity, in which children need to identify items such as signs from pictures, and conjecture about them. There is also a mapping activity, where children need to populate a map with features that they observe. We usually have lunch together on the boat in the sunshine, and indoors if it’s not sunny. Please bring a packed lunch, as there are no nearby opportunities to buy food. Tea and coffee, and drinks for children are offered on the boat free of charge.
  • After lunch, we look at the river water and ask questions: is it clean or dirty? How warm or cold is it? Is there pollution in the Thames, and if so, what is it? Children learn about temperature measurements, and challenge their own assumptions about the biology and chemistry of the river. They use scientific equipment and process to perform fair tests and collate and discuss their findings.
  • Finally, learners ask why the Thames takes its wiggly shape, and how it has grown over millennia. We become geologists and test rock and soil samples taken from the Thames Valley, to find out about their properties and how they relate to the river’s shape and flow. We use fair testing, scientific process, prediction and data-reading to discover more about the Thames, its history and its future.

What skills are developed and practiced on a Thames Adventures day?

family_learning_boy2– Listening and following instructions ‘here’s how to be safe on a boat..’ 
– Working in groups  ‘work out who will hold the stopwatch and who will pour’
 – Conjecturing, or making hypotheses   ‘is the river warmer at the top or the bottom?’
–  Spatial awareness and sense of direction ‘which way is the sea from here?’
Geographical awareness ‘why would a small river join a big one?’
Literacy and spelling ‘tide…tributary…confluence…weir’
Map-reading ‘count your steps from the lock to the bridge..’
Mental arithmetic ‘here’s the date the lock was built: how old is it today?’
Scientific fair testing ‘use exactly the same amount of water for each experiment..’
Fine motor skills ‘pour the water through the little funnel as quickly as you can..’ 
 – Scientific thinking skills how can we test whether our ideas are right or not?’
Historical awareness when people didn’t have rubbish collections in the past, did they throw rubbish in the Thames?’

‘Thames Adventures’ is a holistic, cross-curricular, physical and sensory experience, from which learners take their own learning and create their own stories about rivers and where they come from. We also hope that adults will benefit from some of the learning on offer.

What should my child be able to do or understand before we come?
We aim to make our workshops accessible to all learners of approximately primary school age group (6-12). However, to ensure that your child gets the most out of the experience, please ensure that they are able to:

– Listen to adult explanation for between 2 and 8 minutes, and concentrate on an age-appropriate explanation,
– Find the Thames on a map of the UK,
– Grasp the idea that it flows from its source to the sea, as all rivers do,
– Use, read and understand simple river vocabulary, such as ‘bank’, ‘wildlife’, ‘lock’ and ‘fish’. (More sophisticated vocabulary and concepts will be taught during the workshop),
– Understand and adhere to basic safety instructions, such as ‘hold on to the handrail’ and ‘don’t stand too near the edge’,
– Physically handle a water jug, a thermometer, a clipboard and pen, a tray of small gravel, a tape measure, a stopwatch.

If you’d like to do some preparation with your child, please watch Maddie Moate’s short film about how canal locks work on youtube  here.

Who is Thames Adventures for?
Home-Educating families, and other families. Children must be aged between 6 and 12 and be accompanied by an adult. One adult may accompany up to four children, and no children under 6 are admitted for safety reasons. The learning content is aimed at those under 12 but if your child is older and would still like to come, please call the office to discuss. If your child is in school but our workshops are offered during the holidays we are happy to welcome you alongside the home-educating families.

How much does it cost?
1700s combed glaze pottery found at wapping old stairs

£10 per adult, £15 per child, for one day. Payment may be made by paypal, through the booking form here, or by BACS (bank details on application to the office, call 020 8940 3509, or write to, or send a cheque made out to River Thames Boat Project, with a cover note, to us at to Trowlock Way, Teddington, TW11 9QY.

What dates are available?

book_here_button5Thames Adventures: River Science in Action runs on:
–  Wednesday 31st July 2019
–  Wednesday 23rd October 2019

Click the button to book one of these dates for your family learners

All the dates above follow the same format, although they may vary slightly to reflect the participants.

Where do we come, and what time does it start and finish?

TRTBP Map v1he day starts at 10am and ends at about 3.30pm. There is a break of about 45 minutes for lunch, and we recommend you bring lunch with you as there are no shops immediately nearby. Please click here for a map of how to find the boat.

The postcode is TW11 9NN for the Teddington (West) side of the river or TW10 7QA on the Ham (East) side. There is very limited parking on Ferry road, although several streets near the lock in Teddington have free parking, as does Riverside Drive on the Ham side of the river.  The Lock is a 15 minute walk from Teddington railway station, which has frequent trains from central London. 

What should we bring?
Wear clothes suitable for being outdoors, including footwear for rough terrain. Trainers, walking boots, wellies or similar are fine. You can leave any excess clothing or other unneeded items on the boat. Bring a packed lunch: all learners and teachers eat together on deck (or in the saloon if weather is bad). Bring something to write with, and notebooks can be useful, although we don’t base teaching and learning on written material in particular.

What do we provide?
hands_FWWtestingWe provide tea and coffee for adults, and squash for children, and toilets. We provide all equipment and teaching materials, including printouts and clipboards if necessary. We take responsibility for all safety issues on board the boat, and in the local environment, provided you follow our explicit instructions.

Who will teach us?
light blue fluffy clouds ed pack cover HI RESThe River Thames Boat Project works with a team of fantastic volunteer teachers and boat crew, with one professional education coordinator. Most education volunteers have a teaching background. We are not DBS checked as we do not ever expect to take sole charge of children, nor be left alone with them. All volunteers are fully trained and adhere to a volunteer code of conduct.


What might be risks and dangers?
14225053883_32a326a198_zAny risks are around being aboard a boat and learning in public space. We seek to manage risk very effectively, and most risks are minimized by following appropriate safety procedures, which will be clearly explained. We have a full risk assessment and we review it regularly. It is available to you if you book a place, just email us on to ask.

What will happen when we arrive?

TV - SoR CompWhen you find the boat, we’ll check you on our list and ask you to wear a name sticker, so that we can remember your names. You’ll be shown where to leave your things and firstly you can do a brief quiz to get to know the boat a little…until everyone arrives.

How can I ask questions before I come?
IMG_2950You’re welcome to ask questions. We generally work office hours, although Zaria, the education coordinator, works Monday to Wednesday. Email or or call 020 8940 3509.



How can I sign up?
Fill in a booking form here. If you’d like a paper form, write to or


What’s your cancellation policy?
Cancellations more than 20 working days prior to the event will receive a full refund.  Cancellations less than 20 working days before your event will not be refunded. We reserve the right to cancel our events at any time.  In the event of cancellation by us, you would receive a full refund, or the chance to re-book on another date.

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