Over recent years, the restoration of water flows (daylighting rivers) in urban areas is of increasing interest, and promotion and awareness, especially in the younger generations, is needed. The involvement of young generations can be achieved through learning modules with multidisciplinary activities to increase their understanding of phenomena and associated risks, and also to achieve competences and skills that are valuable in the labor market.
Research-experimental activities in collaboration between students and scientists will be carried out on the addressing the following main themes.
Daylighting “hidden” rivers
Due to urbanization, many of the rivers that once flowed naturally through European cities have been covered over, or culverted – creating “hidden” waterways that are part of the urban drainage system, but now flow underground beneath paved streets or other urban structures. The environmental consequences of such culverting, which include flooding hazards, loss of biodiversity and ecological vitality, and intensified urban heating, are becoming increasingly apparent as the frequency of extreme weather events continues to rise in a globally changing climate. In addition, the absence of natural streambeds deprives the city’s residents of the valuable social and economic benefits associated with riverside parkland, such as opportunities for recreation and tourism amenities.
In response, there has been a growing interest in the restoration of natural water flows in urban areas by re-exposing such hidden rivers to the environment – through a process of deculverting, or “daylighting.” The daylighting of urban rivers can create new habitat for plants and animals, potentially reduce flood risks, and create new ‘green corridors’ through urban areas with benefits for recreational and other services.
Map of Florence, Italy, showing not only water courses that flow visibly through the city (solid lines), but also those which are hidden underground (dotted lines). In all, the province of Florence counts some 30 covered rivers.
Learning outcomes and soft skills
Students often perceive a gap between what is learned at school and what is relevant in the workplace. Therefore the acquisition of competencies is crucial, since it can also impact their choice of educational pathways or facilitate their entrance into the labour market.
Learning is enhanced when students are asked to build their own solutions, and when they acquire practical experience by doing. DAYLIGHTING RIVERS offers materials for a learning process that addresses the understanding of complex systems related to rivers (e.g. water cycle, river ecosystem, soil-water interactions, land use effects and impacts, rivers in the arts, etc.) through scientific investigations, including hands-on activities or using Geographic Information Systems.
Transversally, the project activities will concern school subjects like geography, biology, chemistry, botany, soil and water science, and economics – but also will engage students in the integrative skills of urban planning and land use studies, with the use of technologies and software. The activities are designed to raise environmental awareness on the importance of preserving soil and rivers under pressure from urbanisation.
In terms of soft skills, students are encouraged to work in groups, to take responsibility for specific tasks within a defined time frame, and to communicate their findings to peers and the general public by adapting their language and means of communication to fit the target audience.