RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - From Belle Isle on Wednesday, the water on the James River was crystal clear, reflecting a beautiful city skyline of what is sure to be a bustling downtown.
But on the water, kids from a YMCA program were participating in Kids in Kayaks, a program set up for Title I students meant to keep learning fun and introduce stewardship of the river.
It’s a program run by the James River Parks System, the National Park Service, YMCA, the Valentine, the American Civil War Museum, and the James River Association.
“Oh this is going to be awesome!” one middle schooler shouted, approaching the lined up kayaks.
Some children, such as Kaiden Dickerson, has been to the river plenty of times, but not in it.
“We just go there to hang our feet in and stuff,” said Dickerson, who has plenty of memories sitting on the rocks and playing with her family.
This week, though, she’s in a kayak and swimming on the James for the first time.
" All you do is float. You don’t even need to swim," says an instructor, teaching the students form and safety.
“It’s very exciting," said Dicerkson. "... It’s a fun experience for me because (of) new things. New challenges. That sort of thing.”
Discovering new challenges is the point of the program. Kids in Kayaks aims to give kids “new things” wrapped up in a mix of history, science and river stewardship.
Penelope Davenport with the James River Park System detailed what kind of history the children learn: “Native Americans, establishing this place as a place to live because of the incredible biodiversity and because of the fall line,” she started. It’s a long list. A lot of history. A lot of science. They also study water quality.
“We teach them recreational kayaking. We give them social, historical, scientific and cultural context for what it means to be on the river," said Davenport.
It’s all hands on learning and hands on fun.
“When you’re turning, you have to turn your left hand backwards and your right hands forward,” said Dickerson.
You can read more about the program HERE.
While the program is already full, Davenport says there are similar programs offered by the parks system for all kids.
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