Thames Adventures: river science in action for family learning

family_learningIf 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 and place-based 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.

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If you’d like to know about future dates, join our family learning mailing list

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 ‘learning the ropes’: learning a few knots which are of use on board a boat.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, and 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 and marks 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. Please bring a packed lunch, as there are no nearby opportunities to buy food.
  • 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?’
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Geographical awareness ‘why would a small river join a big one?’
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Literacy and spelling ‘tide…tributary…confluence…weir’
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Map-reading ‘count your steps from the lock to the bridge..’
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Mental arithmetic ‘here’s the date the lock was built: how old is it today?’
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Scientific fair testing ‘use exactly the same amount of water for each experiment..’
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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?
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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, Maddie Moate does a good little film about how canal locks work on youtube  here.

Who is Thames Adventures for?
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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 about 12 but if your child is older and would still like to come please call the office to discuss it. 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?
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£7 per adult, £10 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 02089403509, or write to info@thamesaboatproject.org), or send a cheque made out to River Thames Boat Project, and sent with a cover note us at to 66 Hill street, Richmond, TW9 1TW.

What dates are available?
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Thames Adventures: river science in action runs on:
–  Wednesday 30th May
–  Tuesday 24th July and
–  Wednesday 15th August

All these dates 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 4pm. 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 see here for a map of how to find the boat, including a map. A map is also available here, and 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 rail station, which has frequent trains from central London. 

What should we bring?
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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 you 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?
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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?
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Any 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 info@thamesboatproject.org to ask.

What will happen when we arrive?

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When 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 learn to tie some knots with some bits of rope…until everyone arrives.

How can I ask questions before I come?
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You’re welcome to ask questions. We generally work office hours, although Zaria, the education coordinator, works Monday to Wednesday. email zaria@thamesboatproject.org, or info@thamesboatproject, or call 02089403509.

How can I sign up?
Fill in a sign-up form here. If you’d like a paper form, write to zaria@thamesboatproject.org or info@thamesboatproject.org

What’s your cancellation policy?
We will refund you in full if you cancel your place within one month of the date of your booking. Cancellations within a month will not be refunded. We reserve the right to cancel within a month and in that case we offer a full refund, or the chance to re-book on another date.

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