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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 3214 3118.