Creekside Educational Trust
The Creekside Educational Trust (CET) is an environmental education charity, which is working to promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment in Deptford creek and River Thames area, whilst advancing the local public’s knowledge of environmental matters and promoting the use of Deptford Creek and surrounding area as a place for recreation that will benefit all members of the local community, regardless of background.
How DCT helped:
Creekside Educational Trust ran two sub-projects thanks to funding from Deptford Challenge Trust.
The first was a training programme for 16-18 year olds studying construction, design, carpentry and plumbing at the local Lewisham and Southwark College (LeSoCo). Six young leaders from LeSoCo were trained, and 42 students in total gained work experience though the project. The students designed and constructed a new pond with suspended dipping platform, which allows activity access for small children and people with disabilities, and also installed a water harvesting system for long-term sustainability of the pond. This experience taught the students valuable on-the-job skills, whilst providing close mentoring and tutoring opportunities with their trainers, building confidence and learn how work would be on a "real work site" rather than being restricted to training within the classroom.
Second was the ‘After School Club’: CET ran two after school club series’ for children living in Deptford, choosing children from low income backgrounds to take part in sessions involving hands-on engagement with natural science and urban wildlife. For many children this was a first-time experience, with little or no previous experience of the outdoors or wildlife other than the wildlife they encounter on their housing estate.
The Deptford Discovery Daredevils and the Urban Explorers took part in a range of activities including treasure hunts, wildlife photography lessons, river dipping, bug hunting, wading, pressing wildflowers and den building. Initially, many children were apprehensive at the prospect of getting up close to unfamiliar wildlife, the girls in particular yelping and squealing when they first saw bugs or pond animals. However, as the weeks progressed, they learnt how to observe wildlife up close and appreciate it without fear, and identified butterflies, bugs, crickets and fish they had heard of but didn't know existed so close to their homes and schools. Many expressed their amazement at the diversity of the pond life; particularly keen on newts and Chinese Mitten crabs.
The experience built on the children’s confidence in attempting new tasks that they were initially unsure of. As a result, many left the sessions feeling proud at their ability to face tasks they had found daunting to start with, but had been able to accomplish by rising to the challenge.
One volunteer was asked by a child whether one of the crabs from the Creek was a spider that had been ‘juju’. When asked she explained that in Nigeria a juju is someone or something that has done something wrong and is cursed. Having never seen a crab before, the pupil had assumed that the crab was a spider that had been cursed from a juju to live underwater. Indeed, many children stated that the only wildlife they had seen was in the estates.
Along with most girls from the group of children attending the After School Club, Jenny didn’t like insects “because they are dangerous and could poison you” and spent the first pond dipping session squealing and yelping. By the third session, Jenny was far more inquisitive, closely examining a floating dead fish on a low tide walk, amazed at the amount of life in the water.
Jenny was able to explore her local green spaces and the urban wildlife as part of the CET After School Club, discovering that getting up close with nature and wildlife is fun and reacting in a way that is in complete contrast with her initial reaction to the unknown.
"What I've enjoyed in the after school club is that we all get to look at things like insects, grasshoppers, bees butterflies and a butterfly is really hard to catch - I can tell you that! But what I've really enjoyed is that it is a fun place to go and if there was someone who said they wanted to go I would tell them they should go." - Kellix
"I like that we get to go to the creek and find grass hoppers and I would recommend this to lots of people that like to explore." - Joseph
"One thing i've never seen before is a cricket, I've heard of them but never seen them. Today I found 3 crickets which I'm very amazed by!" - Lucia
"When they invited us to come to Creekside were ever so excited. It’s really fun here because we can walk in the creek and discover more about nature, I've found out I love being out in nature checking out new creatures but sometimes when I see creatures it makes me want to jump and scream. The teachers here have been so nice inviting us here to explore the wildlife, I really like it here and I thank them." - Amarachi
"What I love about Creekside is we went in the river and afterwards I learnt that animals are not scary at all." - Jennifer
"I'm excited that we're coming back on the 31st so I can show my sister and brother all these wonderful things. One thing i enjoyed about Creekside was the pond dipping I really thought we were going to the park but this is much more fun than the park" - Amadu
Saif Beejay is a local resident and volunteered 11 days with CET in June 2015:
“When I was 11 years old I visited the Creekside Education Centre on a field trip run by my primary school. Even as a chaotic preteen, the place amazed me. I was awestruck by the diverse ecological site nestled cozily between Deptford Creek and the Crossfield Estate. I remember loving the low-tide walk, bug hunting and generally having an incredible time with my friends.
"This is why, 9 years on, now as an undergraduate reading Geology at the University of Edinburgh I decided to volunteer there. Volunteering at the Creekside Education Centre over the past two weeks has been such an invaluable experience. Working alongside passionate educators and learning about the Creek and the surrounding area has been not only informative but also really fun!...
"One of the best things about working here was being able to witness how inspired the children were and how their faces lit up when they understood something or caught some mini creatures from the Creek. I was once one of those children and being able to give that experience back was something I will treasure. On top of this, all the activities I carried out here were related to my degree and was great work experience in conservation and ecological management.”