Camden schoolchildren take a side in Hampstead Heath ponds dams project debate

City education project officer Susannah Glover

City education project officer Susannah Glover - Credit: Archant

Children are taking sides in one of the most divisive debates to hit Hampstead in a generation: the controversial Heath ponds project.

Pupils at secondary schools across Camden will go head-to-head to discuss the issues surrounding the £15million dams scheme and make their case for why the project should or should not continue.

It is part of a three-year educational project for primary and secondary school children launched by the City of London Corporation last year, but which began in earnest in March.

The flood defences project is used as a real-life case study for children to learn more about engineering, maths and science, and pupils are taken onto the Heath to see the construction works in action.

The City’s education project officer Susannah Glover said: “It’s interesting to hear how they feel. We just give them the information to make up their own minds. We’re not trying to convince anyone of anything.”

Pupils at schools including Parliament Hill and William Ellis are offered a series of workshops on the Heath or at their schools on a range of topics relating to the dams project.

For the debating sessions, pupils form groups to represent one of the parties who have publicly stated their position on the dams project, ranging from the Heath and Hampstead Society to the Green Party to the City of London Corporation.

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They then put forward their arguments for why the scheme to raise the dams is or is not necessary.

Other workshops include testing soil samples, building and costing model dams, constructing a tower made out of spaghetti or marshmallows, and studying the water quality of the Heath ponds on site.

The City also offers sessions tailored to each school’s needs. All workshops are based on what the pupils learn in the National Curriculum.

The dams project was given the green light by Camden Council in January, and construction works began last month to alter the 300-year-old ponds. It has proved incredibly controversial, but Marc Hutchinson, chairman of the Heath&Hampstead Society, said he has no objections to children learning about the scheme.

He said: “There’s no question of the City taking a one-sided view of events, so it’s difficult to criticise this as an educational project because it is most unusual. Children will be most interested to see it, especially as the construction works will be going on.”