NRWA’s River Classroom

River Classroom: A Day of Science and Adventure

One of the most memorable experiences any child will have is River Classroom®, our canoe-based, day long adventure that teaches young people about our rivers, their history and ecology, and the capacity of humans to impact the health of our waterways, for better or worse. For most children, and for many parent chaperones, this will be their first time in a canoe and their first time on the river, which sets the stage for their unforgettable River Classroom day.

This outstanding program, offered for nearly two decades, has received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Environmental Education, presented by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

How does River Classroom® work?

Field study during NRWA’s River Classroom – Photo by Nancy OhringerRiver Classroom involves a collaborative partnership between the participating school, the Nashua River Watershed Association, and Nashoba Paddler. The program is offered spring, summer, and fall, primarily on the Nashua River in Groton and on the Squannacook River in West Groton. On occasion, other locations may be used.

In preparation for their trip, students, teachers, and volunteer parents view an introductory visual presentation on the Nashua River, its history, and the story of its remarkable recovery, including the inspiring message of our founder, Marion Stoddart, that it is within the power of every single individual to make a difference in our world.

On River Classroom day, each class will first receive basic paddling and safety instruction on the banks of the river. Participants spend half of the day canoeing on the river while conducting wildlife field studies and joining in geology and history discussions led by River Classroom guides. The students are challenged to use their observation skills on the river and make connections with their own lifestyles, including the continuing effects of non-point source pollution generated by elements such as lawn care, road run-off, pet waste, and recreational use.

Students spend the other half of the day along the river banks completing an Aquatic Insect Investigation with River Classroom staff, using specialized equipment to capture, observe, identify, and release macro-invertebrates such as various insect larvae, fish, and crayfish. They will use their data to determine the water quality and general health of the river ecosystem.

We currently offer two variations of our basic River Classroom structure. Our most popular program, “Habitat and Adaptation in the River Ecosystem”, is designed for grades 4-8. We also offer a more in-depth program for grades 7-12 titled “Nutrient Cycles and the Fresh Water Ecosystem” providing scientific activities that lead to a closer look at the important nutrient cycles and molecular components that support healthy river and pond systems.

NRWA’s River Classroom out on the water – Photo by Brett HallWhen developing a program for a new school, we offer a River Classroom Teacher Training Workshop to help the staff become familiar with the river, the program, and our curriculum resources. Taught by River Classroom staff, the workshop involves curriculum brainstorming and development, aquatic insect investigations, and a canoeing trip for all teachers participating in the program. This can be scheduled on a weekday or weekend day to accommodate the teachers’ schedules. Teachers can make use of our curriculum resources as well as pursue their own ideas and materials for classroom development.

The NRWA offers our River Classroom program to non-school youth groups such as homeschoolers, summer youth programs, church youth groups, and others.

To schedule River Classroom, or for more information on fees and details of this program, please contact Stacey Chilcoat, NRWA River Classroom Director, at (978) 448-0299, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.