Standard Rivers Programme for KS2

Our standard rivers programme is aimed at years 5 and 6, but can be adapted for lower KS2 classes. It focuses on science and geography, with the opportunity to also do some literacy, art, or team-work activities. We focus on human impacts on rivers, as well as investigating freshwater wildlife. The programme involves:

  1. A day in the classroom
  2. A day’s field trip to a local river

We can also suggest some pre- and post-visit self-led activities to enhance your field trip.

Classroom session (one day)

The indoor session will prepare the children for their field trip with a series of interactive activities. We will:

  • Use OS maps to review key river terms
  • Practice using a key to help identify some river wildlife
  • Discuss what is good and bad for rivers in terms of people and wildlife
  • Carry out some in-class soil experiments on the effect of land-use on rivers
  • Do a Rivers in Role-play activity
  • Read a story together about The Adventurous Salmon

Field trip (one day)

We will find a suitable spot by a local river where we will eat lunch in the great outdoors, and do a round-robin of three activities. Depending on your group size, two of these activities may need to be led by the adults accompanying your class. There may be time to do an additional activity depending on arrival and departure times.

  1. River dip: The children will use a net in the river to capture invertebrates living in the water. They will use a key to identify them, look at their adaptations, and discuss how the animals can act as pollution indicators
  2. Walk-over survey: The children will walk a short way along the river and create a sketch map with symbols, labels and annotations, focussing on aspects of the landscape which might be good or bad for rivers. This will involve using an OS map and compass points 
  3. Choice of

a) River poetry: the children will do some creative writing linked to the river and video each other reading it out loud

b) Natural art: the children will create some outdoor art with a watery theme using sticks and leaves, Andy Goldsworthy-style!

c) Photo treasure-hunt: in teams, the group will be challenged to observe their surroundings and find a list of particular things to take photos of

Suggested pre-visit self-led activities

  • An introduction to key rivers terms and definitions
  • An introduction to freshwater wildlife in the West Cumbria district including micro-habitats and food chains
  • A study of the water cycle delivered as part of a water efficiency workshop sponsored by United Utilities
  • An independent research activity on why rivers are important

Suggested post-visit self-led activities

  • Follow up the results of the pollution study by measuring the levels of nitrates and phosphates in a water sample, and comparing the results with secondary data from a different river
  • Write a report to summarise the findings of the walk-over survey
  • Write, or refine some river-themed creative writing
  • Make a key
  • Study the life-cycle of a mayfly and compare it to a frog or butterfly
  • Make food chains from the wildlife we saw or discussed

Want it longer?

We would love to support you and your class to do a sharing activity of some kind, such as an assembly, display, performance, peer teaching session or video. You can decide how best to use this additional half-day of our time. You could also book us for an additional session from our list below.

Want it shorter?

We can squeeze our activities into one day but this only works if you have a suitable site within half an hour of your school. We will have to miss out the soil experiment and role-play activity and there will be less unstructured time for the children to experience being outdoors.

Can’t go outside?

Try Rivers in the Classroom! We can do just the one-day indoor part of our standard programme. This can be delivered when rivers are more inaccessible in the winter time or if there is not a suitable site nearby.


Name Type Size
Example risk assessment docx 26.72 KB
Example 2 day programme docx 298.32 KB
Terms and conditions docx 284.22 KB
Pre-visit information docx 285.92 KB