Rocketing into the Summer Term with the Floating Classroom

The blog's been a little quiet recently, but that's changing dramatically this week with the launch of 3 new Floating Classroom projects. 

We kicked off yesterday with a family day to start our after-school science project - WeLikeWhy - with pupils from Westminster's Children University. The boat was a blur of hyper-excited children learning and playing with their parents as they made bath bombs and slime on the decks before sending bottle rockets up into the skies over Paddington. 

Huge clean-up afterwards - blame the slime! - but a fantastic day of hands-on, fun learning. We're all really looking forward to another 10 weeks of similarly action-packed learning and discovery.

Tuesday sees the launch of Life Afloat - our 6-week local area / canal heritage project. Funded by British Land we'll be welcoming two Year 5 classes from Queen's Park Primary on to learn all about the local waterways. More about this later in the week.

Wednesday sees the launch of the Meanwhile Gardens Classroom: a pop-up classroom in the beautiful green space at Meanwhile Gardens right next to the Grand Union Canal in North Kensington. It's a great opportunity for children living in the centre of London to learn all about planting, growing and harvesting herbs and vegetables which they will then cook and eat at a celebratory meal to finish off the project.

If all that wasn't enough, we have 3 days of the annual Canalway Cavalcade over the Bank Holiday Weekend from Sat 4 - Monday 6 May. Keep an eye on our Twitter account for more details of what we're doing, but if you've ever wondered where to find fantastic beasts, you might want to start with the Floating Classroom this weekend.

I'm exhausted just typing all this. Time to post this then and to crack on with preparing for all these amazing learning activities.

Life Afloat

Four years ago the Floating Classroom launched a project called Life Afloat. Whereas previously our programmes had been delivered on a single day, Life Afloat saw us working with pupils from local primary schools over a 6-week term.  

The focus of the project was on the heritage of the waterways in the part of London where the boat operates: from Paddington to Camden along the Regent’s Canal. Our aim was that pupils should understand when, why and how the canals were built and by so doing, they would have a better knowledge of – and connection to - their neighbourhood and how it relates to the wider city. 

Life Afloat was not just about heritage, though. We also wanted pupils to discover that London’s canals are thriving today; that they are still arenas of economic activity and that like so many cities across the world, waterway locations have been at the centre of regeneration.  

At the start of the summer term we began Life Afloat 8 with Year 5 pupils from St Edward’s RC Primary School in Lisson Grove and funded by British Land. It’s a project that goes from strength to strength – you know you’re doing something right when one pupil leaves telling her friend that she’s just had “the best day ever!”.  

This year, we’ve already had pupils on deck comparing the Little Venice of today with pictures of it 200 years ago and observing the glass and steel buildings of Paddington Basin and comparing them with sites maps of the wharves and warehouses that were there in the 1880s. In a ridiculously exciting afternoon for pupils, they also explored the Paddington Central campus – previously the site of the goods yard at Paddington Station – in the course of which they took water temperature readings, learnt how to operate the security team’s radios and met two robots: Calvin Clean the futuristic vacuum and Vodafone’s dancing, tickling, photo-obsessed, multiple-language speaking Pepper Robot. 

Over the course of the project, pupils will explore the London Canal Museum at King’s Cross, conduct oral history interviews with people living and working on the canals today and engage very physically with the waterways when they open / close the locks at Camden Market.  

It’s an enduringly successful project and one which benefits participating pupils right across the curriculum. We will post more here as Life Afloat unfolds over the remainder of this term and if you are interested in finding out more about the project, drop us a line at or call us on 020 3214 3118. 

Floating Classroom at the Canalway Cavalcade

This Bank Holiday Weekend (Saturday 5th - Monday 7th May) our home patch of Little Venice will be taken over by a dazzling display of narrow boats from across the UK as part of the annual Canalway Cavalcade. Thousands of visitors arrive each day to see this celebration of canal culture & heritage, take part in hundreds of different family activities, shop at the myriad stalls along the towpaths and feast on a delicious array of food and drink.

Never one to pass up an invitation to a party, the Floating Classroom will be open from 11am – 5.30pm throughout the 3 day the festival.

Our teacher – Bug Man Tim – will be running 3 shows a day on the boat in which children and parents can meet and learn about his incredible menagerie of insects, reptiles and arachnids. He’s the star of Cavalcade and the shows are incredibly popular so if you would like to meet Delilah the snake or Elvis the chameleon pop in to buy tickets.

In between the shows children can join us to make badges, practise their artistic skills and perhaps manufacture their own scented bath bombs. If we can face the clean-up operation afterwards! To fuel all of this activity – and to bring relief to fatigued parents – we’ll be selling juices, soft drinks, teas, coffees and an indecent amount of gluten-free goodies which have to be tasted to be believed.

We hope this has whetted your appetite for coming along to Canalway Cavalace. We would love to see you on board the Floating Classroom over the weekend.

Cavalcade is organised by the Inland Waterways Association, a charity that campaigns to protect and restore the inland waterways of England and Wales. It is a membership organisation that depends on energy, commitment and passion of volunteers to undertake this vital heritage conservation work.

We've Spruced Up Our Website For Summer

Spring - summer, almost - has finally put in an appearance and the Floating Classroom is in its element. We have new programmes, new partners, new funders and a brand new website on which to tell you about all of these things.

We’ll be spilling the beans on all these exciting developments over the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, you can find details of all the learning activities we offer, how they achieve National Curriculum learning objectives and – crucially – how you can book one of our trips for your class.

As you’ll see, the site is also rather beautiful – all courtesy of our branding / web guru, Alex Flatt. Huge thanks to him and to Bekkie Morgan for pulling together all the content. It’s been an epic journey! 

Thanks for visiting us, enjoy the site and we hope to see you on board the Floating Classroom soon.