An exciting free Science based project for pupils in Sussex schools!

This spring and summer, 12 East Sussex and Brighton & Hove schools have visited the Lewes Railway Land Local Nature Reserve to take part in our wetland activity programme. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, school pupils have been given the opportunity to take part in a range of hands-on activities designed to promote their understanding of the importance of wetland habitats and the actions we must all take to ensure these areas are managed and protected so they will be there for future generations to view and enjoy.

Recent concern about the lack of children’s experiences with nature  has been articulated by author Robert Macfarlane.  ‘There’s an alarming acceptance of the ideas that children might no longer see the seasons, that all childhoods are urban, that all cities are denatured, and that what exists beyond the city fringe or the edge of the computer screen need not be named.  We do not care for what we do not know, and on the whole we do not know what we cannot name.

This project aims to address that concern through an innovative mix of technology and hands-on experience put together by a highly professional team of educators within a purpose built centre dedicated to the study of environmental change.  The core points of the programme are:

  • A set of values regarding how to approach and respect the creatures through imaginative cartoons
  • Hands-on pond dipping outside from a specially designed platform in an award winning local nature reserve
  • Appreciate the importance of water and water habitats to terrestrial wildlife as well as aquatic species
  • Working alongside adults experientially in the first instance
  • Closer examination of creatures in a nearby dry building with plenty of equipment
  • Question and answer session with an expert using a digital microscope
  • Reflection on the knowledge gained by writing a short script in pairs or singly about a creature
  • Peer-to-peer learning through a live broadcast by the pupils to other pupils in participating schools
  • Access to  live underwater cameras back at school
  • Ideas for developing the pupils’ work and insights gained from the visit back at school
  • A second visit which explores more of the Railway Land Local Nature Reserve through a variety of approaches such as drawing, writing and scientific recordings plus pond dipping further out in the field and not from a platform plus a joint broadcast on pupils’ responses to the site as a whole as well as the creatures within it.
I strongly feel that engaging children in their local environment is the key to re connecting with nature. The project gives children a peek into the secretive and often unseen world of nature. I hope it is inspiring children to see that there is amazing wildlife all around us (not just in rainforests and other exotic locations) and that the project has provided the skills and knowledge to excite and encourage young people to go out and explore their own local patch.
Steve Savage, Biologist, Environmental Educator Wildlife Author

Please watch our video below to see just some of the activities the pupils enjoyed during their visits.


Using 21st Century webcam in the classroom

An important part of the project is the opportunity for pupils and members of the general public to see online the Pond Surface and Underwater webcams located around the reserve that are streaming 24 hours a day at certain times of the year live video of the wildlife that live on and visit the Railway Land. Although nothing can rival the excitement of seeing nature for oneself outdoors, the cameras enable us all to see up close images that we could not capture with the naked eye.

A library of high quality Teaching & Learning resources

To support the project, the Railway Land Live! Team have developed an extensive library of teaching and learning resources to support the two activity days each school will spend on-site. In addition, we have developed for busy teachers a bank of wetland habitat video clips. These can be viewed and downloaded from the Railway Land Live! Video Library. Updated weekly, this website holds hundreds of copyright free short clips (less than 2 minutes in length) for use in the classroom.

‘It took 25 years to reach this point of a purpose-built building supporting innovative approaches to nature conservation and I can’t tell you how rewarding and important it has been to see teachers and pupils alike embrace the project. The drip drip of young people becoming isolated from nature and wild places and the thinking that such experiences can evoke has reached a critical point and I hope the message that we send from this project goes far and wide – that children are captivated by what they find and see in the natural world when they are given the chance, as indeed John Dewey taught us as long ago as 1900.’
Dr John Parry - Railway Land Project Director

Register now to take part in Railway Land Live! 2016

Following the success of the 2015 programme, we are now taking bookings for 10 Primary School places and 5 Secondary school places for 2016. Interested schools have until Friday 30th October 2015 to complete and return the 2016 Registration Form.

Please note that all schools applying to take part in the 2016 programme must send a member of staff to the Teacher’s Launch Meeting at The Linklater Pavilion in Lewes on 12th February 2016 and be able to bring their pupils to The Linklater and Reserve one day in the April and one day in June next year.

Interested in taking part in Railway Land Live! ?

To register your interest in the Railway Land Live! 2016 schools programme, please download, complete and return this registration form.

E-mails should be sent to:

For more information about Railway Land Live! e-mail: or telephone 0780 1709 409