A practical education to water conservation for children

There are many ways to enjoy getting out and about in the company of our rivers, whether strolling along the banks of the Barrow, kayaking down the Avonmore or fishing on the Moy.

It’s initially a little harder to grasp the delight of stepping “instream”, directly into cold water, to discover what kind of insect life lurks under the stones.

However, this kind of ecological immersion is becoming an increasingly common experience, for school children and for community groups. And it may, its advocates claim, play a key role in helping us to connect what we do in our bathrooms, our factories and our farms with the health of our environment. Everything, after all, ends up in our rivers, if we only looked at them more closely.

“Oh my goodness, what I saw today was so spectacular,” says Bláithín Ní Áinin. She has just been on an “instream field trip”, in the Abhainn Mór stream on the Dingle Peninsula, with the pupils of Cloghane National School, facilitated by the StreamScapes environmental education service.

“To see children in the river, splashing with their nets, holding creepy-crawlies in their hands, this is a great way to connect with nature, right here and right now. Some of the kids were a bit precious about getting into the water at first, but at the end of the day they were almost all barefoot on the stones, happy out.”

Ní Áinin works for the Local Authorities Water Community Office in Kerry, and her mission is to “engage and empower communities to improve water quality from stream to catchment”. So you could say she has a veted interest in promoting this sort of outing.

But her take on the day is confirmed by a Cloghane teacher, Rachel Ní Bhuachalla, and by six children who speak to The Irish Times about the experience. Every one of them describes the experience as “really fun” or “enjoyable” – and not just because they were out of the classroom on a fine day.

They also all speak about the pleasure of learning about new creatures, and finding out what these creatures told them about the quality of water in the local stream.

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