Outdoor Education; Inspiring The Next Generation Of River Heroes

Young people are the river guardians of the future. That’s why, each year, we work with hundreds of local primary school pupils through our outdoor education projects to help spark a lifelong love of rivers. To do this, we use a mix of national curriculum approved classroom activities and fun outdoor sessions involving tree planting, river safaris, fishing, health walks, and outdoor games.

Ribble Rivers Trust’s outdoor education programme has developed and improved across the years, growing to offer environmental education to more young people across the Ribble catchment and reverse the effects of nature-deficit disorder.

All of our education sessions and activities take place outdoors where possible. Our goal is to bring the river to the classroom and the classroom to the river. We take a place-based approach to education, celebrating natural heritage and inspiring pupils to take responsibility for improving their local environment. This helps them to form a connection with the wildlife supported by their local river habitat. In the long term, we hope this encourages them to protect these areas.

Pupils visiting their local river as part of an outdoor education session.

Ribble Explorers

Out outdoor education sessions also teach pupils practical skills, such as map reading.

Ribble Explorers is a new project focusing on the Ribble Catchments coastal communities.

Our research shows that young people in these communities would dramatically benefit from reconnecting with nature. By examining National Health datasets we can see this area has high levels of outdoor inactivity in children; high levels of depression; and high levels of obesity and inactivity related illnesses.

Furthermore, areas of Blackpool in particular have very high levels of deprivation as well as high levels of excess weight in children. There is a clear need for outdoor learning in these areas, which will help to connect people with nature and have a positive effect on mental and physical wellbeing. Outdoor education and learning will also encourage green thinking, which will help protect the environment for future generations.

Trout in the Classroom

The Trout in the Classroom project brings the magic of the brown trout to primary schools. Our workshops take place across the Ribble catchment throughout the spring term of the academic calendar, from January until the Easter holiday. It begins with Ribble Rivers Trust staff setting up trout tanks with all the equipment needed to create a river habitat in the classroom before delivering 100 brown trout eggs.

Pupils are spend their time with nurturing their trout from egg to fry (young fish), observing each stage of the trout’s life cycle as it unfolds before their eyes.

Just before they break up for the Easter holidays, pupils will help RRT staff to take their young trout to their local river. Here we will release them to live the rest of their lives in the wild. During this release day, we will also search for other fascinating freshwater creatures living below the water’s surface. Pupils will learn to ID freshwater invertebrate species and learn why they are so important to the future of their trout.

Trout in the Classroom is a fantastic project which enhances the National Curriculum and brings learning to life. All activities link directly to the KS2 National Curriculum. They also help pupils to develop Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) values, recognised by Ofsted as important components of an Outstanding school.


Back in 2022 took the lead on HEAL (Health and Environmental Action Lancashire), a partnership project which aimed to help with nature recovery and connect people to the outdoors, particularly in the more deprived areas with low access to green and blue spaces.

Whilst we're encouraging pupils to visit their rivers, we also want them to stay safe, so we run water safety workshops too.

Through HEAL, we developed a new education programme, Water + Wellness. This programme had a focus on getting pupils outside for all the benefits it brings to mental and physical wellbeing. Pupils took part in activities including health walks, litter picks, tree planting, invertebrate identification, learning about water safety and the Countryside Code, and nature crafts.

One school that took part in Water + Wellness was a primary school in Shadsworth, Blackburn. This area has very high levels of obesity/inactivity-released illnesses and falls among within the top 10% of deprived areas of England. We found that children in this school weren’t given the opportunity to explore their local greenspaces. So, we gave each child a map of their local area with walk routes included, to encourage them to go for walks with their family and friends. A large proportion of the children told us in following sessions that they had been for walks with family members, which was a huge positive change.

Water + Wellness is just one example of the positive impact Ribble Rivers Trust’s education programme can have on the children and young people we work with. So far, it helped children from these more deprived areas who don’t usually access greenspaces to get outside and experience nature. Now we are carrying the learning from this project forward through the Coastal Explorers programme.

Inspired by our work?

Believe it or not, outdoor education is one of the key activities that we really struggle to find funding for. In fact, most of this work is funded by donations from corporate organisations, other grant giving charities, and organisations associated with the schools themselves.

The good news is that you can become a supporter from just £3.00 a month. All of the money that is donated through our supporters goes to these hard to fund activities, ensuring that we can carry out our work and help to inspire the next generation of river heroes.

A Ribble Rivers Trust team member delivering an outdoor education session.
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