Riverside Explorer is an interactive educational CD-ROM specially developed by the Environment Agency to enable schools in England and Wales to use River Habitat Survey (RHS) data. It has five modules, an illustrated glossary and teaching aids, including example case studies.
A simplified form of the RHS database containing information and photographs from 4500 river sites in England and Wales was used to provide an attractive classroom resource, relevant to the national teaching curriculum for 9–14 year olds. This enables teachers and pupils to explore rivers in their locality and further afield, and in so doing help them understand how river processes, features and wildlife are linked.
Copies of the CD-ROM were distributed free of charge to all primary and secondary schools in England and Wales. Questionnaire returns and other responses show that where it has been used Riverside Explorer has proved popular.
In classroom teaching the CD-ROM is mostly used in a structured way for learning about the key features of a river basin, and to chart downstream changes along the course of a river. It is also used to investigate the habitat requirements of river wildlife, and to help pupils learn how to observe features in their local river and make comparisons with those elsewhere.
The database and the example case-studies are currently under-used by teachers. This may in part be because teachers are not yet confident enough to develop new learning activities using the CD-ROM, but more generally because of time constraints imposed by heavy teaching workloads. To encourage greater use of the analytical and diagnostic elements of Riverside Explorer, teachers need more guidance to help their pupils discover ways in which rivers can be managed more sustainably and how this fits into the new National Curriculum for schools.