The Rivers Academy is a unique community learning environment in nature where children and adults can develop understanding and knowledge of rivers through hands-on, curriculum and citizen science-based, activities. Based at the prestigious National Trust’s Belton Estate near Grantham, the Academy is centrally located in England and easily accessible by road and rail. It provides an inspirational setting encouraging people from all ages, backgrounds and abilities to develop an understanding and awareness of the river environment. Created and managed by East Mercia River’s Trust, the Rivers Academy is the UK’s first permanent educational centre solely focused on rivers.
The Belton Estate provides safe access to the River Witham, surrounding land with ideal classroom space with facilities. The Rivers Academy caters for the increasing demand for field-based learning centres. With the opportunity to visit and study a range of river restoration sites nearby, the Rivers Academy caters for a range of students from primary schools through to GCSE, A level to those undertaking graduate and post-graduate studies.
The Rivers Academy supports children and adults to develop socially as it creates a safe, nurturing environment for learners to get involved and interact with a range of people. The approach aims to build mental well-being as well as knowledge and aims to address both the biodiversity and climate crises. Studies have shown that spending time in the natural environment is linked to positive mental health outcomes, as well as helping alleviate stress and benefitting psycho-social wellbeing (Natural England 2022). UK is ranked bottom in Europe for Nature connectedness (Ambio) and despite the rural nature of Lincolnshire, it is ranked second worst region in the UK for people accessing nature (Natural England, 2019).
Increasingly individuals and companies are keen to support nature recovery through volunteering. With guidance and training, citizen scientists play an important part in data collection and analysis. Through the citizen science approach, people of all ages and abilities can take part in scientific research. It is a powerful tool which can inform restoration efforts and will play an important role in the implementation of Biodiversity Net Gain and Local Nature Recovery Strategies through monitoring and data collection. The Rivers Academy is intended to become central to upscaling citizen science across the Witham and Welland catchments.
EMRT is grateful for initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided the support to undertake a feasibility study for the Rivers Academy concept and conduct pilot workshops throughout 2023.
For further information see FAQ Rivers Academy 2024
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