Close this search box.

Fieldwork: River fieldwork in an urban area

River fieldwork in an urban area - River Ouse in York


If you live in a town or city with a river running through it, you may not have considered using it for fieldwork due to the width, depth, velocity and accessibility of the river. Rivers in an urban area provide a different angle for traditional fieldwork and an opportunity for rich investigation of people’s opinions, flood defences and secondary data.

Download this resource as a PDF


Length of time

Half day at fieldwork sites, 1 lesson of classwork and one homework.


Suitable locations

A river running through an urban area close to your school.


Equipment needed

Clipboard, pencil, camera and data collection sheets.


Objectives and key skills

  • Using GIS to investigate river channels.
  • Creating data collection sheets.
  • Completing secondary research.
  • Drawing field sketches and annotating them.
  • Carrying out different types of questionnaires.
  • Completing annotated photographs.
  • Drawing pie charts / bar charts.


Suggested delivery

In the classroom visit the UK river atlas from ESRI and use this to find information about the average discharge and length of the river. This is a great way to introduce the features of ESRI if you haven’t used it before. Use the measuring tool in ARCGIS or Google maps to measure the width of the channel in the location you are visiting. Record this data.

Task students with creating a questionnaire about flood risk that could be asked when visiting the fieldwork site. This could be a questionnaire with open and closed questions or a Likert survey. The questionnaires could be based around attitudes to flood risk or whether they feel the government has done enough to mitigate flooding. At KS3 the design of this questionnaire could be completed collaboratively as a class.

For homework before the fieldwork, ask students to investigate any prior flooding in the location either by visiting a flood risk map or researching news websites for previous floods. Students should record this information.

Choose a transect along the river which is accessible. Along the transect select a number of sites to enable comparison. At each site students should draw a field sketch of any flood defences they can see and take photographs of any evidence of flooding. The field sketch and photographs can then be annotated.

Carry out the questionnaires, asking members of the public if appropriate or completing a Likert survey individually at each fieldwork site. Students could also carry out a space use survey to see how local people use the area along an urban river.

On returning to the classroom or for homework students could present their data using bar or pie charts for their questionnaire data or create word clouds for epitome words. They can also annotate any photographs. Graphs could be located onto a map to show opinions along different parts of the river.


Potential risks to consider

  • Students should be aware of the key rules to keep safe when crossing a road and use formal crossings wherever possible.
  • Students must not enter the river at any point.


Possible follow-up activities

  • Students could complete a decision-making exercise based on what other flood defences may be required in your area of investigation, from this they could then write to the local council and environment agency to make suggestions.
  • Students could use Google Streetview to investigate other parts of the river to make further comparisons.


Useful links


This collection of Fieldwork activities was created by the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group (FOLSIG) for the National Festival of Fieldwork, the GA invites everyone to take part during the summer term.

Your Resources

Save this resource to your Dashboard

View any Online Teaching Resources you have saved

Journals & more

Find out more about the GA’s three journals and the GA magazine


GeogPod is the GA’s podcast, each episode discusses a different geographical topic

Want to access all our
Online Teaching Resources?

Many of our Online Teaching Resources are only available for GA members.

Find out information about our different types of memberships and join the GA today to view hundreds of resources on a wide variety of topics

We have much more support and guidance available including a wide range of events, publications, teaching resources and ways of getting involved with the GA that you also might be interested in.

More from GA

Explore our wide range support from the GA