Beach schools give children the opportunity to appreciate many aspects of beaches and the coast which they may not have thought about or even experienced at all. We discuss what beach schools are, their benefits and training.
Beach schools follow the same ethos as forest schools; you can learn more about the benefits of forest schools here. Beach schools use the coast as a platform for a whole new learning experience. They provide children with the opportunity to explore their natural surroundings in an organised setting.
The general idea of a beach school session is not to follow a fixed plan but rather to be more fluid and to encourage children’s instinctive curiosity. Then, meet their learning and developmental needs through the natural world. What’s great about beach schools is no two beach school sessions will ever be the same. We believe it is so important to get kids outside, experiencing and enjoying nature. Here’s all you need to know about beach schools.
What are the benefits of beach schools?
The benefits of beach schools are endless; here are a few ways that beach schools can benefit children.
1. They help children to develop social skills.
Learning whilst outdoors requires engagement and a lot of effective communication. The coastal environment presents multiple opportunities to engage children in group activities. They will develop their communication and social skills by working in a group. The change in surroundings and leaving the four walls of a classroom can significantly help a child to become more sociable.
2. They encourage children to be independent.
Beach schools are a great way to encourage children to not only work as part of a team but also to explore independently and think independently whilst being guided in a safely assessed session.
3. They help children to build confidence.
Beach schools and learning outdoors encourage children to take well-thought-out risks. This develops confidence in children. Everyone is different, and classroom environments don’t suit all children. Some children will thrive outdoors, but they may not have been very confident in a classroom setting. This transformation can often transfer back into the classroom.
4. They develop physical skills.
Activities such as picking up seaweed or seashells are working those fine motor skills, stamina and gross motor skills naturally without children realising it. A good run along the beach is fun and getting children to be physically active.
5. They get children motivated.
It’s no secret that exercise and fresh air leave us feeling motivated. Learning skills and taking part in activities at beach Schools get children motivated and concentrating. This engagement and ability to focus on specific tasks and concentrate for extended periods is exceptionally beneficial for children.
What do beach schools involve?
Beach school sessions aim to educate children, through games and activities, about their local coastal environment and how they can help sustain it for future generations. From bird watching, making fires, mark making in the sand with driftwood, tracking animals, running freely along the beach, litter picking and paddling in the sea, the beach provides children with many outdoor learning opportunities.
Some of the typical topics explored during beach school sessions are:
- Be sensible, safe and responsible when using/enjoying the beach.
- Explore the effects that changing seasons and tides have on the coast.
- Understand sea defences what hard and soft sea defences are.
- Take part in mini beach cleans, and why this is important for the environment.
- Explore the natural coastal environment.
- Explore how marine flora and fauna have adapted to survive in their environments and how different weather conditions affect them.
- Discuss pressures on the marine environment. E.g., marine pollution and overfishing.
- Discover marine protected areas.
- Identify different species and learn more about them.
- Explore and discover coastal habitats.
- Learn survival skills such as shelter building, fire lighting and cooking outdoors.
These are just a few topics that different beach schools will cover and cater to activities in line with. Beach schools also develop children’s primary skills, such as basic instincts, emotional intelligence, teamwork, outdoor confidence, social skills, and health and safety initiatives.
Become a beach school leader
There are plenty of courses available for you to train to be a beach school leader. A Level 3 qualification allows you to set up and run beach school sessions in your setting. Different locations will offer different variations of the course. However, the core principle is the same, and you will investigate how best to design and run a beach school programme and look at how to approach and apply it safely and effectively.
You don’t need to have done Level 1 or 2 to join most Level 3 courses. They generally only require that you have experience working with children outdoors and sometimes in any work capacity.
Where can I train to become a beach school leader?
You usually don’t need to have completed Level 1 or 2 to join a beach school course; they usually only require that you have experience working with children outdoors or in any work capacity. This course enables you to set up and run beach school sessions in your setting. You will investigate how best to design and run a beach school programme and how to approach and apply it safely and effectively.
This qualification can be utilised independently to assure practitioners and those employing them that children’s safety is paramount and that marine shores and beaches can be sustained for future generations and be productive in educating children about their unique qualities and habitats.
You can find upcoming courses in various locations here.
Newquay Forest School, Beach School Courses
Newquay Forest School – The course is run from several beaches in and around the Newquay area. If you have a group and would like to organise a course further afield, their trainers may be able to come to you. You can get in touch with them to discuss further.
This comprehensive training is designed to give you the best possible foundation when leading activities in a marine environment. With core units in beach safety, conservation and group management, it is the standard for teachers and outdoor practitioners or anyone looking to establish beach school provision in their setting, as well as those using the beach for school trips and activity days.
The course lasts five days, followed by 12 months to complete portfolio work. It is a 13-credit qualification with a total qualification time of 130 hours, including 47 guided learning hours. The minimum age for this qualification is 19.
Before application, it is recommended that students have either the ED Basics certificate or similar outdoor qualification at level 3 or have a minimum of two years of experience working with groups in the outdoors.
Are you a teacher or looking to hold a beach school session yourself? Here are some handy tips:
Like any school trip, start with a risk assessment. Especially when visiting the beach, there is an increased need for safety as the environment can sometimes be unpredictable. This is a vital learning experience itself! With essential life skills being taught to children, they will learn how to protect themselves and act responsibly when exposed to open water.
1. Take your time.
Make sure that you give yourself enough time to hold your session. You want your beach school session to be a substantial learning experience rather than a quick trip. This could be one of the first times a child visits the beach. They may need time to get used to the environment to appreciate the entire experience.
2. Prepare for the weather.
Don’t worry about the weather too much. This is an all-weather activity; make sure children are fully prepared with the correct clothing they might need. Ensure that children are fully protected to get stuck in and have fun. Some schools have also bought (or donated) wellies and coats for children who do not have them at home, which is a great way to include all children. Children need to experience the beach in all weather conditions. They will develop a respect and understanding of the sea and how to stay safe when it comes to open water and exploring such risky environments.
3. Encourage or make beach school regular sessions.
If you or your school is located near a beach, then this is something you could try and do as often as possible! You could train to be a beach school leader and hold sessions once a week or fortnight. For those further away, try even once a term. It’s beneficial for children to see the beach during different seasons and weather conditions.
4. Allow children to explore.
There are pressures and targets constantly in everyday life, so it’s important to relax a little bit and just let children explore. Children are naturally curious and, as they explore, will begin to ask questions. Guide them in the right direction and encourage their interest. You might even see this mirrored in everyday school life.
Beach school activities linked to learning
- Take a book to the beach and enjoy reading together while relaxing by the sea.
- Let the seaside and beach inspire children to create theatrical scenes or stories to act out on the sand.
- Use the sand to your advantage and encourage children to write poetry about the shore or in the sand itself.
- Record the weight of litter collected on a beach clean and keep track of it.
- See if students can sort items by size or weight.
- Find stones or objects that look like a named 3D shape and use them to practice shape recognition.
- Draw 2D shapes in the sand and see if children can identify them.
- Build a cake in the sand, then cut the cake into a fraction or percentage.
- Use a pile of pebbles and remove a percentage to practice math abilities.
- Engage in rock pooling or search for wildlife habitats.
- Enjoy activities like bird watching and shell collecting.
- Link to food webs and chains, lifecycles, and microhabitats.
- Learn about the gravitational effect of the moon on the Earth.
- Understand how waves are formed through the action of wind on water.
- Local area study, look at maps and charts together.
- Discuss the changing shoreline and how the waves cause erosion on the shoreline.
- Look at what sea defences may be used to protect the shore and why.
- Create treasure maps, get pupils to hide something, and instruct another child to see if they can find it. This could be using a key on the map they have created or using a compass and compass directions.
- Create a mosaic using different coloured stones and shells if you have many pebbles. Check out Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration.
- Bring paper and pencils to sketch the coastline, wildlife, shells, and more.
- Collect shells, feathers, seaweed, and driftwood found on the beach to make a mobile. All you need is some string and scissors.
Follow up learning when you’re back to school
You don’t have to stop learning about the beach when you return to the classroom. Reinforcing the lessons learned outdoors can help students further their knowledge.
- You can encourage students to write about their experiences.
- Assign an independent marine study project.
- Discuss what changes can be made in school to help protect the marine environment.
- Create a marine-themed piece of artwork.
- Have students write their marine pledges to help protect marine habitats.
- Look at the water cycle and wastewater processing and how they relate to our seas and rivers.
These activities can also be lessons if the weather is too bad to go to the shore safely.
Let us know if you’re already a beach school leader and about your experiences in the comments! We would love to hear from you.