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    What is RiverWatch?

    Thousands of students just like you spend a day rafting and exploring Alberta Rivers each year. These students enjoy an amazing field trip as crewmembers aboard a floating science laboratory!

    Many parents and teachers have helped make RiverWatch a success. After a day helping supervise on the river, adults often say, "We never did anything like this when we were in school! " We're always pleased with what they're saying about RiverWatch.

    We're very proud that RiverWatch Science was recognized with the 1997 Prime Minister's National Award for Teaching Excellence. It's hard to top that!

    "Through your dedication and skill, you have opened doors for these young people to exciting studies and careers, and in turn are doing your country a great service. You are an inspiration to fellow educators and all those involved with Canadian youth. Please accept my warmest congratulations and best wishes for continued success."The Right Honourable Jean Chretien

    RiverWatch is designed to give you real-life and hands-on experience with environmental science. Participants are asked to accept four challenges.

    • Be Safe
      RiverWatch has introduced tens-of-thousands of students to their local rivers. Not only is it an amazing science program, it's also a very safe way to learn about rivers. You'll spend a day under the direction of a professional river guide who oversees your safety while paddling and conducting science observations.
    • Conduct Real Science
      RiverWatch is not just about learning science - it's about actually doing science! River Watch gets you doing real research. The data you and other students collect is used to build a database for monitoring the health of Alberta Rivers. One entire day aboard a floating laboratory is truly amazing, but RiverWatch is much more than a one-day field trip! RiverWatch prepares you before the field trip and then helps you with data analysis when you return to school.
    • Team Spirit!
      RiverWatch rafts are much too big for one person to paddle. Also, one person couldn't possibly collect the hundreds of science measurements in one day. Working together in as team is one of the best things about RiverWatch!
    • Taking Care of Rivers
      The health of our rivers is being affected by the sheer combined impact of so many of us. Just look at everyone who's using rivers - anglers, boaters, dams, industries, agriculture, towns and cities. Helping with RiverWatch Science is one good way of helping take care of rivers.
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  • Safety

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    Trip Safety

    The key to creating a great RiverWatch science adventure is our 15-passenger inflatable rafts. You can think of them as large rubber busses or fully equipped floating laboratories!

    Alberta RiverWatch uses inflatable rafts that are approximately 7 m long, 3 m wide and 1 m high. Each of these professional quality rafts can comfortably seat up to fifteen passengers.

    RiverWatch rafts are used to transport science students from study site to study site along a ten-kilometer section of their local river. There is a qualified and experienced guide in each raft to assist students with paddling and water quality monitoring.

    Tens-of-thousands of students have participated in the RiverWatch Science Program since it started in 1995. The safety and comfort of students is always of utmost priority. A combination of policy, equipment, procedures and training have kept the program accident free:

    Informed Consent

    • A detailed pre-trip newsletter goes home to parents describing "who, what, where, when and how".
    • Students are granted permission to participate on the basis of informed consent. Students under the age of 18 years are not required to sign a liability waiver.

    Safety Equipment

    • Large professional-sized rafts are used instead of canoes for a safer and more stable platform from which to view the river.
    • Personal floatation devices (P.F.D.'s) are worn at all times on or near the water.
    • Students receive a pre-trip safety talk on how to prevent accidents and handle emergencies.
    • The need for chemistry lab safety is just as necessary on the river as it is in schools. Students use eye goggles, disposable gloves, garbage containers and liquid waste collection bottles.
    • RiverWatch is able to provide each student with rubber boots and a raincoat for use in cool or wet weather.

    Professional Guides

    • River guides have Standard First Aid certification or better. Guides may also have Wilderness First Aid, National Lifeguard Society, Canadian Ski Patrol, Swift Water Rescue or Emergency Medical Responder training.

    • All river guides have extensive experience with paddling canoes, kayaks or rafts and receive pre-season raft training. In addition, guides may have Alberta Recreational Canoe Instructor or YMCA Canoeing training.

    EMS 911

    • River guides carry a first aid kit, rescue rope and a cell phone or two-way radio.
    • Alberta RiverWatch operates within or near towns with quick access to Emergency Medical Services 911.
  • Parents Roles

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    Parent Role

    We ask that each RiverWatch raft has onboard a school-based representative and this is often a parent volunteer. More than 600 parents accompany their students as RiverWatch volunteers each year. This is amazing, much appreciated and a necessary component of adult/student supervision ratios.

    The parent’s role is one of general supervision and assistance and likely more so when accompanying junior high school grades.

    Please introduce yourself to your river guide for the day and ask how you might help.

    At the two shoreline test sites, it’s really a help if parents step-up and volunteer to supervise and troubleshoot the Dissolved Oxygen Test. There are lengthy instructions to read and complicated techniques to follow. Students will benefit from a bit of help and organizational advice from time-to-time.

    And in addition to helping out, we trust that parents enjoy the day and learn more about rivers right alongside their students!

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  • The Paper Work

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    RiverWatch Paper Work

    In the increasingly litigious and accountable age that we live in, there is no escaping the paperwork associated with a field trip. Some of the paperwork originates with local school boards; some is provided here for your use; and other forms are required by RiverWatch.

    There is no escaping the inevitable, so get comfortable and take a look a look at what we offer or require here at RiverWatch!

    We provide a suggested template for a Family Newsletter that you may customize to best suit the needs of your school.

    • Add your letterhead, specific classes, teacher names and fee requests.

    • We require that the hazards, map and permission form stay as printed and unchanged.

    • The newsletter should be copied double-sided.

    • The last sheet must be returned to the school with signatures on both sides.

    • Organize the returned forms by raft group and alphabetically.

    • Bring all student health information pages during the field trip.

    Download PDF Documents

    Simple line drawing maps have been created for each of the towns and cities that host RiverWatch Field Trips. The relevant map for a particular river should be included in the Family Newsletter as page six.

    As a condition of participation in any activity offered by the not-for-profit Beyond Books Institute of Alberta or its RiverWatch Program, the undersigned freely accepts and fully assumes all risks, dangers and hazards to property and person. The undersigned also acknowledges that there is potential risk in all water activities and that a rafting experience may lead to expense, loss, damage, insult, injury, illness or even death associated with, but not limited to the following hazards:

    Rough Terrain: Any manner of falls, slips or loss of balance on steep, slippery, muddy, icy, grassy, rocky, gravel, loose, cracked or uneven terrain especially while leaving or returning to the shore.
    Litter: Any entanglement in fishing line and shopping carts or contact with concrete rebar rods, broken glass, condoms and hypodermic needles submerged in or along the water.
    Weather: Any exposure to cold, heat, rain, hail, wind, lightning, reflected sunlight or sudden weather.
    Equipment: The use, failure of or contact with any equipment including vehicles, busses, trailers, trucks, rafts, paddles, oars, personal floatation devices, ropes, bins, kits or fishing hooks.
    Animals: Any exposure to bacteria, viruses, insects, stings, bites, wasps, fish, spiders, leeches, mosquitoes, bats or aggressive animals including dogs.
    Plants: Any slippery algae, stinging nettle, rose thorns, slapping branches or exposed roots.
    People: The actions, behaviors, equipment and garbage associated with other paddlers, motorists, anglers, boaters, cyclists, rollerbladers, spectators, homeless people or intravenous drug users.
    Water: The possibility of sudden immersion in cold, moving or shallow water complicated by contact with rocks, leaning trees, concrete, paddles, rafts or people; flipping of rafts against bridge pillars, river bottom or trees; entanglement in ropes, submerged debris or fishing line; foot entrapment between rocks; body entrapment under a raft; and hypothermia, shock or the aspiration of water.

    Download PDF Documents

    Each raft can comfortably accommodate a maximum of 15 passengers. Please complete one of these forms for each raft group. Present forms to your RiverWatch guide upon arrival at the river.

    Download PDF Documents

    The actual paperwork required for data collection out on the river amounts to just one sheet. The idea is to keep things simple - less to lose and less to get wet. No booklets - just one long sheet of paper.

    Everything Is Provided

    On the day of the field trip, RiverWatch will provide a datasheet along with a clipboard and a pen-on-a-string. Students won't have to bring any paper, binders or writing tools.

    One For You and One For Us

    The RiverWatch datasheets produce carbonless copies. Teachers take the top white sheet back to school and RiverWatch keeps the bottom yellow copy. Each raft group will complete one datasheet. Back at school, students use the datasheet to enter their data on-line to this web site.

    A copy of the datasheet is provided here for your interest. A quick look at this page will probably tell you a lot about the intent of a day with RiverWatch!