A few weeks ago we went to Oxwich Bay with my brother and his family for a day on the beach. It was a brilliant afternoon, and one that will definitely go up there as a highlight of the Summer due to the relaxed free-range play that The Boy and his cousin enjoyed, while my brother searched my cockles on the water's edge. However, for me the best part was exploring the rockpools with my sister-in-law who works in outdoor adventure activities and has received training in 'Beach Schools'.
The lesser known 'Beach Schools' don't seem to have the recognition or accreditation that 'Forest Schools' do in the UK, which is a particular shame as the entire country is surrounded by the most wonderful coastline. My sister-in-law was eager to pass on her training to us and show The Boy all about the wonderful creatures which live in rockpools. He was fascinated, as was I, and so I decided to take our learning home with us.
I half filled a bucket of water, collected a variety of shells and seaweed specimens and set them up in our trusty Step2 water table which has two tiers. Into the bottom I placed sand and the shells, the top level had seawater and the seaweed.
Then I invited The Boy to play, and learn.
The cockle shells completely fascinated him! He compared them to castanets and tried to play music with them. He noticed that one hadn't opened properly and examined the creature inside (brought home in error!). Then he made imprints in the sand with the cockle shells and noticed the ridges, and how they joined together perfectly.
Next I presented The Boy with a shell identification sheet and he started trying to match up the shells to the animals which have them as homes.
The sheets which my SiL gave me are aimed at older children (who can read), however the illustrations are so clear that it's easy for younger children to use them with an adult to read to them. The Boy was fascinated with the identification sheets, and quickly noticed the one for seaweed trying to work out which seaweed was bladder wrack etc.
This was an excellent learning experience for him, and one which will be easy to repeat in situ next time (as we've laminated the guides) we go to a beach. We happened across one last week while on holiday, and he was fascinated with the limpets and muscle shells we saw covering the rocks.