Hi, I’m Merryn and I recently started working with the FIRE Lab team using creative methods to engage young people with fresh waters. Since March I’ve been looking for ways to entertain two young people at home, four-year-old Bryher and one-year-old Fred, mainly befriending woodlice and trying to grow things from the food waste bin. We’ve also been busy trying out the activities on Fire Lab Kids while the woodlice are hiding.

So far, our favourite activity was visiting our local river, for which we decided to make a short video! It’s posted below and over at FIRE Lab Kids if you also want to download the activity.

Creating our local river video was a steep learning curve for me because I had never used my stills camera for film, nor a videomic. I soon realised that I should have practised using the manual focus before heading out into a deep, dark wood… also that a tripod is (should be) my friend, and that too many appreciative grunts don’t make for great audio. 

It was also a learning experience for Bryher, who was to be the star of the show. She rather enjoyed hiding under the duvet to record her narration, but her wingman Fred had not been briefed on shouting and tripod-trashing etiquette. Let’s say the three minutes we see in the video belie hours of wobble and whine.

But despite the challenges, our river adventure was a highlight of these past few months. As a family we’ve been appreciating nature, and our walk was a feast for the senses. We felt invigorated by a cacophony of birdsong, the smell of wild garlic and a rush of river and sea that assumed a greater intensity than usual. Our adventure also provided plenty of things to talk about afterwards, from the plants and animals we found to the shape of the river and its mysterious disappearance beneath the shingle bank.

At FIRE Lab we are working up ideas with local teachers and STEM Ambassadors program to use Jac’s River Adventure and activities to engage with young people and explore their relationships with rivers. Looking at Bryher’s drawing, I am particularly interested by the river and path, which seem to go on forever. The trees are also prominent – I don’t think she had ever drawn trees before our river adventure, but they clearly made an impact on her and have featured in almost every drawing she has made since. I can’t wait to see what other children make of this activity.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our river adventure, as demonstrated by the smiley faces on Bryher’s drawing. You might notice one of the people looks very unhappy indeed though – this is Fred. A “shark ate his banana”, but unfortunately I didn’t catch this bit on film.

— Merryn Thomas

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