Summer Education: Teach at the Beach

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During summer, our children’s learning spaces expand well beyond the confines of school walls. A “summer classroom” can be as massive as the ocean or as tiny as a sliver of seashell… and the summer learning that takes place here is powerful stuff!

Want to add a splash of summer learning to your next trip? Use these fun ideas to stretch your child’s thinking and take advantage of the world’s sandiest classroom…

Sand Play
Not sure what to do? You’re sitting on it! Children love exploring sand, digging, stacking, burying, sifting, and sprinkling. Challenging themselves to build the tallest structure or collaborating on a construction project introduces physics concepts and helps kids practice communicating and cooperating.

Water, Water Everywhere!
Children love to experiment with water, and you’ve got an ocean full of it! Filling, spilling, and pouring lets kids explore volume and capacity while honing coordination and fine motor skills. Watch as water seeps into sand and mix concoctions with different ratios of sand/water to compare consistency. Which formula makes the best sandcastle? Bring summer learning home and study evaporation by boiling water until only the sea salt remains.

Leave a Trail
Take a walk and experiment with different kinds of movement. How is moving in sand different from water, the boardwalk, the parking lot? Have fun with footprints and notice when you return whether your trail is intact or whether new feet have traveled the same path! Can you spot other trails? Tires, bicycles, bird tracks…? Use a stick to create a new trail, inventing wacky new footprints or movement patterns in sand.

Autograph the Beach
Fingers, forks, rakes, shells, and sticks make great writing tools! Practicing writing in the sand is a fun way to show off letter skills on a large canvas. Pre-writers develop control and coordination by drawing sand pictures with sticks, while older writers can sign their names or scrawl other messages across the beach, or play hangman to hone reasoning skills.

Search for Treasure
Bring a bucket and comb the beach for treasure! With your haul, practice sorting and categorizing skills by organizing your collection in different ways (color, shape, texture, size, type…). Make a list of natural and man-made items you could find on the beach and set off on a scavenger hunt!

Get Crafty
A day at the beach can inspire endless works of art! Search for bits or coral, driftwood, shells, and smooth stones, and bring home sand in jars. These materials can be used to make sand art, a bedroom mobile, a mosaic mirror, or strung into necklaces. The finished masterpiece will be an everyday reminder of family time together.

Become One with Nature
Take time to watch birds or study fish. Count the different kinds and discuss what they look like and how they move. Put critters in a jar to observe – make a sketch or a silly rhyming poem – and free them when you leave! Bring binoculars, a bird identification guide, and a camera to observe and identify species of sandpipers, plovers and seagulls.

Go Fly a Kite
Conduct a wind experiment with a kite. This offers opportunities for trial-and-error learning with older kids and is perfect for developing a preschooler’s coordination and prediction skills!

Make a Fish Face
Have fun with dramatic play by pretending to become the beachy things around you. Can you make your face look like a fish? Walk like a gull? Move like a crashing wave? Encouraging movement play on the beach will stimulate imagination and develop observation skills. Don’t forget to join in!

Jump In
Challenge your young swimmer to a floating contest. What is the easiest way to stay afloat? Experiment with swimming strokes to figure out the easiest way to move around. Jump waves in knee-deep water. How do you know when to jump? Can you count the time between wave crests? Can you figure out which way the tide is moving?

Follow Up
After a day at the beach, take time to research to questions that arose. Identify shells you brought home, find out more about waves, look up images of an interesting bird you spotted… exploring deeper builds respect for nature and encourages meaningful inquiry-based learning!

Have a great beach-related learning activity? Please share!

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