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River workshop inspires Culdaff students 19.10.23

THE Inishowen Rivers Trust (IRT), in collaboration with The Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), recently engaged in a compelling initiative by taking 23 students from St. Bodenís National School on an educational journey into the world of river heritage and citizen science.

On a crisp autumn morning, Wednesday, October 11th, the young Culdaff children immersed themselves in the rich history and environmental importance of their local river. The day offered the students a chance to step out of the classroom and into their wellies, encouraging them to discover more about the river's past, its biodiversity, and how they can actively contribute to its preservation.
 
Citizen Scientists from St. Bodenís National School completing the Riverís Trust Big River Watch survey.
The outing began at the historic old mill in Culdaff where the students were informed about the river's role in producing food for the village throughout history. With the pupils organised in groups based on the names of famous international rivers, they discussed the role of rivers from food to transportation and defence.

Under the guidance of headteacher Charlene Henderson and class teacher Linda McGonagle, the students walked through the village to a route to the river, provided by local landowner and councillor Johnny McGuinness, who ensured safe access behind McGuinnessí Bar and Shop.
 
Mill River Conservation Groupís Tomas Lawrance collecting samples from the Culdaff River whilst St. Bodenís pupils watch on.
Once by the river's banks, the students rotated in examining the insects found in the river using the Citizen Science Stream Index, discovering how the presence or absence of specific aquatic invertebrates serves as a vital indicator of the river's health. They also had the opportunity to contribute to the Rivers Trustís national data set building a picture of river health throughout Ireland. Armed with clipboards and pencils, Culdaffís budding citizen scientists reported on the river flow, the plants, wildlife, and the appearance of the river. The students were also asked to express their emotions in one word about being by the river, with responses ranging from "good" and "happy" to "hungry" and "cold."

In addition to their scientific observations, the students had the chance to identify trees, plants, and wildlife along the riverbank, including a frog playfully named "George Washington" by one group.
 
Examining the invertebrates of the Culdaff River to assess water quality.
Carlene Lyttle, Project Officer at the Inishowen Rivers Trust, expressed the significance of the workshop: "The school's workshop is part of our ongoing efforts to engage children with their local environment, creating awareness about the importance of water quality while offering fun and educational ways for them to get involved."
The Inishowen Rivers Trust has been actively working with the Culdaff community and landowners for several years. Notably, the CRiBZ (Culdaff Riparian Buffer Zones) project has encouraged riverbank planting to mitigate flooding, absorb pesticides and chemicals, and reduce sedimentation by preventing livestock access to watercourses.

In August, the Inishowen Rivers Trust facilitated an event at the Wee Hall to share the stories of the heritage of the Culdaff River, which has been nominated for a national award from the Heritage Council. The Inishowen Rivers Trust expressed deep gratitude to LAWPRO for their support and funding, which made this inspiring and educational workshop possible.
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