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, how they benefit children and how you can become a beach school leader.
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 to not follow a fixed plan but rather to be more fluid and to follow 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.
According to a Keep Britain Tidy survey in 2018 just under one in five children (18%) have never even set foot on a beach. We have also read that according to recent research 75% of UK children now spend less time outdoors than prison inmates! 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 school’s 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 greatly 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 to also 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 encourages children to take well thought out risks. This develops confidence in children. Everyone is different and classroom environments simply don’t suit all children. Some children will totally 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 even 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 leaves us feeling motivated. Learning skills and taking part in activities at beach Schools gets children motivated and concentrating. This engagement and ability to focus on specific tasks and concentrate for extended periods of time is extremely beneficial for children.
What do Beach Schools involve?
Beach school sessions aim to educate children through games and activities, about their local coastal environment as well as how they can help to sustain it for future generations to enjoy. 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 so many outdoor learning opportunities.
Some of the typical topics explored during beach school sessions are:
- How to 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 of the 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, working as a team, confidence in being outdoors, 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 own 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 had past experience in working with children outdoors and sometimes in any work capacity.
Where can I train to become a beach school leader?
You don’t need to have done Level 1 or 2 to join this course, it only requires that you have had past experience in 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 look at 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 the use of the marine shores and beaches can be sustained for future generations as well as being productive in educating children with their unique qualities and habitats.
You can find upcoming courses in various locations here.
Newquay Forest School – The course is run from a number of different beaches in and around the Newquay area. If you have a group and would like to organise a course further afield then their trainers may be able to come to you get in touch with them to discuss further.
This comprehensive training is designed to give you the best possible foundation when leading activities from 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 own setting, as well as those who are using the beach for school trips and activity days.
The course runs for 5 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.
Prior to 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 experience of working with groups in the outdoors.
Manor House Forest School – You can become a fully qualified Level 3 coastal school leader with Manor House Forest School. It’s the perfect qualification to fully embrace outdoor learning in Kent.
They provide advice and guidance and see you through to the end of the Award with full support. The training is held at a local beach in Westgate, Kent, but they’re happy to consider other beach locations around East Kent (numbers dependent!) So get in touch.
This OCN 5-unit course is for people who wish to become coastal school leaders and/ or set up their own coastal school and is a nationally recognised qualification. The course is 5 full days of theory and practice, 2 further days of practical assignment, and 1day observation of your own sessions
More information about course dates and costs can be found here.
Outdoor learning is becoming increasingly popular within schools. If you are a carer or parent wishing for your child to attend a beach school a quick google search and you are sure to find one near to you that suits your needs!
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 is visiting the beach, they may need time to get used to the environment so they can appreciate the full experience.
2. Prepare for the weather.
Don’t worry about the weather too much. This is an all weather activity, just 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 had donated) wellies and coats for children who do not have them at home which is a great way to include all children.
It’s actually really important for children 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 to 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 inquisitive 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.
Let us know if you’re already a Beach School Leader, and about your own experiences in the comments! We would love to hear from you.