In 2020, FIRE Lab team and collaborators, produced Jac’s River Adventure (JRA) book, to share with educators a cross-disciplinary way to challenge young people to think, create and learn about their local rivers. Last year was also the year of COVID-19, which caused disruptions to everyone’s lives, including those of researchers, educators, and creatives. These groups were challenged to adjust and modify their existing in-person approaches to on-line and remote engagement and learning in a relatively short time frame. These adjustments were also often made with much uncertainty about the status and expectations of how engagement and learning should be (from the perspective of the government) conducted from day-to-day.
Initially, our intention with JRA was to deliver in-person engagement and learning activities with schools and other groups around Swansea in 2020-2021. However, as with others, we realised rather quickly that planning in-person activities came with a lot of uncertainty that at the time seemed greater than the uncertainty of delivering on-line activities (even if these were not our own or the teachers’ preferred means of communication or delivery). So during lockdown events in Winter 2020 and Spring 2021, Stephanie and I led online activities with six classrooms as well as with several other groups across Swansea.
The activities we delivered were based on the JRA short story (both in English and Welsh languages). Using the teacher’s preferred online platform, we appeared on screens in classrooms and home computers and delivered JRA activities. Through storytelling and drawing, our goal was to inspire young people to have fun, create and visit a local river for an adventure. Our idea of visiting was not only that of physically going to a river but also using one’s imagination to be there. We used this dual approach to visiting, not only because of restrictions associated with COVID-19, but in realising other reasons that young people might not be able to visit a local river (e.g., safety, ease of access, and family or guardian commitments or preferences). Aided by the teachers and technology, more than 200 river adventure creations were made!
The river adventure creations by young people are also part of our research, and so too are reflections and experiences shared by the teachers who collaborated with us on this project. I am currently analysing the images, and Stephanie is analysing the responses from teachers. It is our intention to produce two peer-reviewed publications from this project; one of which is alongside the teacher collaborators. In addition, each one of the creations made by young people is depicting a unique river adventure. The different styles, textures, themes, and ideas were impressive and inspired us to get creative with all of these contributions from young people.
As a thank you to all young creators and teachers, I first gathered one element from each drawing and created “the bigger picture”. I shared these elements with Joelle Evans, who is the designer of JRA, and asked if we could design a banner together showcasing “Our River Adventure”, which is a river world as depicted by all the young people during the online activities we led earlier in 2020 and 2021.
Almost one year later, and with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions steadily easing, we had the chance to enter a few of the schools! What a treat! We finally got to meet and thank the young people and teachers who had engaged with us from a distance! We met them during two short assemblies, which gave us an opportunity to talk about JRA, answer questions, and surprise them with an Our River Adventure banner. The pleasure was immense!
Meeting indoors with the students and the teachers inspired us to, once again, consider activities and visits in the schools. Fish Migration Day on the 21st of May could be one such occasion to meet again.
Visit this page again for more updates on our online and in-person research activities!