Going to the beach?

A sandy beach with a few rocks.Summer is a time when many families visit a beach. How do you help your students build on what they learned through their summer beach experiences when they return to school? Maybe our colleagues whose schools are within walking distance from a beach can offer suggestions! When school begins in August or September and children’s memories of a trip to the beach are fresh in their minds, a tray of objects from an ocean or bay can inspire their drawings and writing about their own experience. Those teachers who live in communities where the beach is an everyday experience may have some favorite books to share with us. If so, please add your suggestions for books with accurate science, whether fiction or non-fiction, by commenting below.
I was raised in Ohio and had just a few beach experiences in childhood. Like the edges where a meadow meets a forest, the beach seems to have a great diversity in animal and plant life. Writer and scientist Ann McElhatten, shares her knowledge of Atlantic seacoasts in a free e-book, 10 Beachcombing Activities: A guide for investigating the Atlantic coast shoreline, and a blog, Beach Chair Scientist, where she and her collaborators use video and text to show readers the wonders of tiny colorful coquina clams making their way in the sand and many other marine science topics. Does anyone know of resources for inland and West Coast beaches?
Here are a few books for young children about the beach, from my favorites and from the NSTA Recommends list, to look for at your public library or bookstore:
Ocean Seasons by Ron Hirschi (2007 Sylvan Dell Publishing)
Oceans by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill (2012 Peachtree Publishers)
On the Way to the Beach by Henry Cole (2003 Millbrook Press)
Wow! Ocean! by Robert Neubecker (2011 Hyperion Books)
Yellow Ball by Molly Bang (1991 Morrow Junior Books)
And for adults:
The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson with a new introduction by Sue Hubbell (1998 Mariner Books)
Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans by Sylvia Earle (1996 Ballantine Books)

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8 Responses to Going to the beach?

  1. Gail Laubenthal says:

    For those of us who don’t live within walking distance to the beach, we have to bring the beach to our children. I always spend time finding out were the children went over the summer and for those beach-goers – and for those who only dream of the beach, I turn my sand table into a beach experience. I love the very fine play sand from the local hardware store…it is soft to the touch and will hold a shape when water is added. I have a great collection of seashells, so adding those seem to add to the interest. Children will often bring their seashell treasures to add to our beach, too. I also like to add some little people (from the block center), some small umbrellas, pieces of beach towel (cut so that the little people can “lay out”, some small balls, rocks, and containers that can be used for sand castle building. Allowing the children to use water has its advantages, but I have also found that some children love to see how much water they can add, which changes the experience for others. I am fortunate to have 2 sand tables and often will have the other one filled with tubs of water. This gives the children who need to pour water a place to pour, keeping our beach experience better for sand castles. Just talking about the beach reminds me that I still have several weeks to get myself over to the Texas Gulf Coast:)

  2. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Gail, what a delightful idea. I imagine that the beach scene promotes a lot of conversation. You have a wonderful way of phrasing it, “Some children love to see how much water they can add.” Sometimes I have the children use small tools such as spoons or small droppers (pipettes) to add water so it takes time to get to the “right” amount. I’ll have to try the 2-sensory/sand table option and have large shallow tubs of water on the table (since I only have one sensory table) so the sand can be damp rather than flooded. Wish I had the open air option that I see on Marie Faust Evitt’s Thinking Big Learning Big Facebook page where drainage is not an issue.

  3. Marie Faust Evitt says:

    It’s true that I am very fortunate that we have a giant sandbox outdoors to which the children can easily add water by the bucketful. We also can attach a hose to bring water to the sandbox and it all drains away.
    I also like to put sand , seashells, driftwood and pebbles in the sensory table for a different “beach” experience. I love Gail’s idea of adding little people and beach towels and Peggy’s of adding water with pipettes to make tiny sand castles.
    Recently at a science fair I saw at an activity comparing buoyancy of fresh and salt water that I want to try. You need two glass containers of water, two fresh eggs and salt. Place a fresh egg (carefully) in one of the containers of fresh water. It should sink. Add salt to the the other container until added salt no longer dissolves. Place the other egg in this salt water. What happens? Children could aso compare what happens with other items such as wooden blocks. Mark a line where the block floats in the fresh water then compare where it floats in the salt water.

  4. Gail Laubenthal says:

    Thanks for more ideas, Marie. I will be trying the buoyancy investigations this year, too. Last year we played around with things that float…even with ice balloons. However, I never thought about using two containers…I wonder if young children will notice the difference?

  5. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    I like the activity with fresh and salt water because it has children learning about mixing a solid with a liquid to make a change, and gaining experience with dissolving, as well as building their experiences with sink/float to use to tackle the concept of buoyancy later on in their education.
    Years ago I got to float in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. We were told to be very careful of our eyes to prevent scratching our corneas with salt crystals! Even though I had read about the ease of floating due to the higher density of the salt water, and been told about it, I still experienced a “huh!” moment when I tried it and floated quite high in the water.
    This 9-minute YouTube video shows floating at minute 2:45 and is a general tour of the Great Salt Lake environment.

  6. Carrie Sanidas says:

    On days when the the Lake Michigan is relatively calm, my children were always surprised to find that the water at the top of the lake’s surface is considerably warmer than the water at the bottom of the lake. They loved to sit on the bottom to cool off.
    This is a perfect opportunity to discover sunlight’s effect on water temperature and densities of different temperatures of water. Kids can also compare how quickly sand heats up compared to the water.
    Finally, there are white, red, and black sand beaches in Hawaii. Kids could compare how quickly each of these sands absorbs and releases heat.

  7. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Carrie, Your children’s exploration of differences in water temperature are building towards a goal in understanding described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas from the National Academies Press:
    Grade Level Endpoints for PS3.B, By the end of grade 2. Sunlight warms Earth’s surface.
    This endpoint is part of learning Core Idea Ps3: Energy How is energy transferred and conserved? (pgs 5-14, 5-15)
    If we don’t have a Lake Michigan or other natural body of water to swim in we could do as you suggest and put light and dark sand (or soil) in the sun and touch it to see, er, feel, if there is a difference in temperature.
    Mmm, swimming and sandbox play, great for summer science exploration.

  8. Gail Laubenthal says:

    I could only dream of having a natural body of water available to extend our outdoor nature activities. One thing that we did to help the children understand the power of sunlight was to put water in two identical containers. We covered one with white paper (taped it around the outside) and the other with black paper. We put student thermometers in each and noted where the red line was. We went put them out at the beginning of our outdoor time and them checked them when we were going in. The one covered in black absorbed more heat and the red line was higher. When we returned to the classroom, I asked the children, “On a very hot day, would it be better to wear a white shirt or a black shirt outside?” The discussion was lively and some of the children, who had dark shirts on that day, said that they were really hot because of the sun. I know there are many other activities that can be done, but this one is easy and the children can see and feel the results.

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