An exciting new project has just been launched to connect young people to the River Lea in Luton and Central Bedfordshire. The Junior River Wardens programme is a citizen science project which will engage 16 schools and four youth or uniformed groups in the Luton Lea catchment area to monitor the River Lea and its tributaries.

The project is being run by Groundwork Luton & Bedfordshire, the community charity with the green heart. Groundwork is co-host of the Luton Lea Catchment Partnership, a group of individuals and organisations united to improve the River Lea. From its sources in Houghton Regis, Lewsey and Leagrave through Luton to Luton Hoo lakes, the partnership works with local people to make this happen. The Junior River Wardens project is funded by Thames Water Community Investment Fund.

The schools and groups taking part in Junior River Wardens will monitor a River Lea site over two years, submitting their findings on water quality and litter, invasive species and wildlife online. This data will ultimately be accessible to all via the catchment partnership website.

Junior River Wardens was launched at the beginning of this academic year. The first stage was a Groundwork-led training session for teachers and group leaders in September, to give them a chance to learn more about the programme and to have a go at some of the monitoring activities.

Seven primary schools, two secondary schools and one youth group have signed up to the first phase and Groundwork's Senior Environmental Education Officer is busy supporting them to undertake their first monitoring visits. Young people from Houghton's Regis Youth club have already visited Houghton Brook and the Science Club from Downside Primary School visited Cat Brook in Limbury Meadows.

Following their first visits, the schools and groups will be given an information pack and equipment so that they can continue to monitor their site.

One teacher from Downside Primary School said, "The visit has been brilliant and it was so worthwhile for the pupils as many of them do not get out beyond their home environment. One excited pupil even asked if they were still in Luton!"

Alongside this project, Groundwork has developed a River Lea education resource pack, which will be hosted online and distributed to the schools and groups. This pack provides information and advice on visiting six sites along River and is designed to encourage and facilitate any schools or groups to visit the River environment, whether for the Junior River Wardens project or their own filed work or walks. The pack includes template risk assessments, suggested lesson ideas (linked to relevant key stage of pupils) and practical information on visiting the location.

Teachers during the Junior River Wardens training session

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