Maybe it’s because the beach is such a completely different landscape from the one we call home. Maybe it’s the legendary lure of the sea. Whatever the reason, some of our greatest learning adventures have happened with sand in between our toes and salty wind in our hair.
For those of you looking forward to some oceanside days this summer, we’d like to share our favorite ways to make your beach blanket the best classroom ever.
1. Read a Whale of a Tale
There’s something so right about delving into a good read at the beach. Take a dip in the ocean. Read a little. Grill up some burgers. Read a little more. Toss out a fishing line. Read a chapter or two. A great beach tale is like the thread onto which you slide the jeweled memories of vacation living.
Some of our favorite oceanside read-alouds:
2. Become An Explorer
For those of us who don’t live within earshot of the ocean’s roar, the beach is a whole new world to discover. It is full of sights and smells, plants and animals that are completely different from those we experience at home. So pack up the colored pencils, camera and field guides. Take along a blank notebook and work together to document your discoveries.
If you’re new to nature journaling, you can take a peek into ours here.
Some of our favorite beach finds are sea beans, and last year we gained a whole new appreciation for seaweed. You might also be inspired by our friend’s accounts of beach balls, sea wash balls and moon jellies.
Need a few beach bag worthy field guides? Try these:
A few more ideas for beach life observation -
- Before you go, check to see if there is a good aquarium or wildlife center near your destination. We’ve also found that seaside universities often have fantastic exhibits available to the public.
- Take a flashlight out on the beach late at night to look for ghost crabs.
- Be on the lookout for tracks in the sand. How many different kinds can you find?
- Seek out different habitats in the area – dunes, bays, rocky inlets, tidal pools – each one is a little world of its own.
- For the truly adventurous – take a trip to the fish market and bring home a few specimens for dissection. Clams, mussels, crabs, octopus, lobster and fish all are a feast for the mind as well as the appetite!
3. Be a Seaside Scientist
Biology isn’t the only branch of scientific study to be had at the beach.
The beach is a great place to start a study of the heavens with H.A. Rey’s The Stars. Push a stick into the sand at the waterline in the morning and watch how that line changes throughout the day.
Fly a kite, make a windsock or pinwheel, and learn about the changing wind patterns at the beach. Together, devise ways to remove the salt from a bucket of sea water.
Science in Seconds at the Beach is a great resource for more simple science discoveries.
4. Dive Into History
Beaches are teeming with the kind of history that excites young learners, and a few of us older ones too!
During our seaside vacations we’ve toured ships and historic mansions. We’ve learned about the roaring 20s beach scene with its bath houses, gambling, mobsters, speakeasies and debonair celebrities. We’ve thrilled to tales of real pirates and lost treasure.
We’ve toured museums that document horrific hurricanes and driven past the decaying gins that were once the heart of the Texas cotton trade. These kinds of tours are often a great way to take a little break from the heat while gaining a new perspective on your vacation destination.
5. Keep a Trip Log
When we go on vacation we like to keep a notebook where it’s easily accessible to everyone. We keep scissors, glue, watercolors and pencils nearby so that we can record our best beach moments whenever the mood strikes. Maps, photos, tour pamphlets, even recipes work their way into our journal. For the younger writers among us, it helps to keep a word bank alongside the journal. Together we brainstorm words that he might want use to describe his experiences. (You can see a word bank that we used a few years back in the photo above.)
Often this journal becomes a place for remembering questions that we want to explore further at home. (Why is it so windy here? Was that story the tour guide told about the pirate true?) It becomes a souvenir of not only our trip, but also of the things we learned along the way.
So this summer bring home something more from the beach than just pockets full of shells and sand in your shoes. Take home an ocean full of interesting new ideas and fresh discoveries!
How about you? Do you have any fun learning adventures planned this summer?