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Nature Study at the Beach

Updated on January 28, 2016

Science Exploration Among Sand and Shells

Charlotte Mason considered it ridiculous that a child would study about the rainforest but not recognize the plants and animals in his own back yard. But she certainly didn't limit nature study only to a family's immediate surroundings. Nature study can extend to whatever place you visit whether that be a city, a zoo, a botanical garden, a desert, or the beach.

If the beach is nearby, take a day trip for your weekly nature study. Or if the beach is a far away treat, try to sneak in a little nature study during your vacation time. You won't have to work hard to encourage your children to collect shells and look at the creatures caught in the tide pools. But be deliberate about bringing along sketchbooks to document what you see and field guides to identify what you find.

Exploring Tide Pools
Exploring Tide Pools

Tide Pool Exploration - Nature Study at the Beach

My daughter and I have spent hours staring into the fascinating cornucopia of life found in tide pools, night after night during a beach vacation. They are always fascinating no matter how long you've looked at them; you always find something new to marvel at.

Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium's activities page for directions to build your own aquascope for looking into tidepools!

California State Parks offers lots of free educational resources for studying and enjoying tidepools -- A Guide to the Side of the Sea.

And if you're more of an auditory learner, go to the National Wildlife Federation's Green Hour website for a short podcast about tidepool watching.

You're in for a real treat if you click over to School for Us to see their field trip to Cabrillo National Park's tide pools. And here is another post, this time from Monterey Bay.WOW! What incredible life can be found in those small pools.

Apples and Jammies blog shares an entire tide pools unit study with several links and a lapbook!

Tiny Shell
Tiny Shell

Beach Nature Study - Things to Focus On

If you have several days at the beach, consider focusing on one particular topic each time.

Things to study

  • shells
  • creatures in tidepools and on the sand
  • plants growing on the beach and in the water
  • erosion
  • wind - fly a kite
  • sun and clouds
  • tides
  • stones and driftwood
  • birds

There's more to building sand castles than just play. Study the physics behind the fun!

Beach Study is Beach Play
Beach Study is Beach Play

What to Take Along for a Beach Nature Walk

Although you hate to be encumbered by too much gear, it's also nice to have a few supplies on hand to enhance your observations. Pick and choose what to take. And remember, each day's beach walk can be different -- take binoculars one day and a bucket the next. But don't forget the sunscreen!

  1. Magnifying glass
  2. Binoculars
  3. Camera
  4. Bucket, pail, jar, mesh bag, or other creative container for shells or small creatures.
  5. Paper or sketchbook; pencils
  6. Field guides for on-site identification

Science in Seconds at the Beach - Exciting Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less

Science in Seconds at the Beach: Exciting Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less
Science in Seconds at the Beach: Exciting Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less
You don't actually have to be at the beach to do these quick activities and experiments. Many of them can be done in the backyard, making this a great resource for before a beach trip or after one.

Beach Books & Beach Poetry

Prepare for your beach visits or reinforce what you already experienced with some living books.

Homeschool Share offers an entire unit study complete with printable notebooking pages all about the book Pagoo.

Peterson First Guide to Seashores

Peterson First Guide to Seashores
Peterson First Guide to Seashores
This is an inexpensive field guide to get you started with beach nature study. For a more in-depth resource, look at the title below.

Beach Wildlife

Beach Wildlife
Beach Wildlife

Studying, Collecting, and Identifying Shells

Take the shells you collect from the beach and put them to good use. Organize and label them. (Be inspired by this blog entry!) Use them for crafts or for displays such as this shadow box craft.

National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Shells
National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Shells
Fifty of the most common shells are highlighted in full color detail in this small field guide. This field guide is designed especially for children, so it's not intimidating.


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