BART’s Eels in the Classroom (EiTC) 2023 project has been another great success! EiTC is an annual project that BART run in several primary schools throughout the Bristol Avon catchment. The project aims to educate the next generation of river guardians about a species that lives below the waterline that is not only one of the most endangered species in the United Kingdom, but also one of the most elusive and mysterious.
European eels are listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and have several areas of protection, such as being listed as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species. Eels are also protected under European Eel Regulation (European Commission) and the Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009.
Despite these levels of protection, European eels are in desperate need of conservation to ensure their survival within our rivers. Since the 1970’s, the number of eels reaching Europe has declined by a staggering 90%, with overfishing, river pollution, migration barriers and habitat loss being the key factors for the eel’s critical status.
Over 100 pupils from 4 different primary schools have been exploring their local rivers and looking after their eels for 4 weeks, before releasing them back into their natural environment. BART delivered a series of lessons in Frome Vale Academy in Bristol, and at another 3 schools in Frome; Critchill Primary School, Oakfield Academy and St John’s C of E First School. A combination of visual learning and interactive activities were used to engage the pupils, which were then followed by some brilliant questions from the children.
The first lesson included introducing the eels, talking to the children about what they are, where they live and how to look after them whilst they are in the classroom. Lesson 2 covered the mysterious and fascinating life cycle of the eels, which involved the children creating their own versions of eel lifecycles. The session ended with an engaging animated video taking the children through the various life stages of the European eel lifecycle. The final lesson aimed to educate the children about the threats that eels face in the wild, while also exploring the ways we can help the eels, other river wildlife and the natural environment. The final session involved an interactive game to help the children understand the many obstacles eels have to dodge in order to make it back out to the Sargasso Sea, many of which are as a result of human activities.
Following the lessons, the eels were released at a nearby river, where the children got to say a last farewell to their new friends and wished them luck on their journey. We are delighted that around 200 eels were released into the Bristol Frome and the Somerset Frome. During the eel release with Frome Vale Academy, BART also delivered a river dipping event with the pupils to educate them about other river wildlife hiding beneath the surface of their local rivers, how to identify them and how they can be used as indicators of river health.
Thank you to the Environment Agency, DS Smith and Friends of the Somerset Frome for funding and supporting this years project.
If your school is interested in taking part next year, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org