After hours of trawling the internet for ideas related to outdoor learning I came across an article about a Beach School. It was a school who had sent a teacher to be trained as a beach school practitioner and they were now taking children onto the beach to explore and learn.
The whole idea of this sounded exciting and I once again began reflecting on how as teachers we do not use the natural environment enough to support teaching and learning. Nature provides such a rich bank of freely available resources but we severely under utilise them when it comes to teaching.
Before I knew it I had booked myself on a Level 3 OCN Beach Schools Practical Skills and Environmental Management course. I was excited and nervous but more intrigued about how this would impact my own teaching practice.
Beach School Training
The first day the sun shone and I arrived eager and ready for my two days of training. The training began with a classroom session about the safety aspects of running a beach school. All the practical and safety side of things seemed manageable and I couldn’t wait to get on the beach to start the training. The afternoon soon disappeared and we had explored lots activities about the unique coastal environment.
After a pleasant evening in a local B&B I woke up and peered through the curtains to find there was no sun or even blue sky. The wind was blowing, the sky was grey and the rain was falling. Still determined to make the most of my experience I got kitted up in full waterproof gear and began the walk to the beach.
I soon realised that the weather could have a huge impact on learning outdoors as I was struggling to hear the instructor. However, the weather conditions made the group work closely as a team. We managed to erect a shelter and find a suitable area to start a fire. Before we knew it we were huddled around a fire toasting marshmallows and discussing the huge benefits of being outside.
When I returned back home I began reflecting on my experience and consolidating what I had learnt through the course work I now had to complete. I had learnt a lot, met some amazing like minded teachers and was ready for the next stage of my outdoor learning mission.
Aberdyfi Beach Rangers
It was a very exciting time as I began organising my very own beach school in Aberdyfi, Wales. I trialled activities in my new beach classroom with a group of toddlers and before long my fears of leaving the classroom disappeared.
Aberdyfi Beach School was formed and I spent the summer offering beach activities to children and their families. Working on the beach had its up and downs, especially when the wind blew, but we worked through them and I had the most amazing experience.
I felt honoured to have families turn up to activity sessions and sometimes watch three generations of the same family interacting and having fun together. For some families it took a while to start communicating and working as a team but they soon learnt that they had to listen and work together to achieve success, wether it was in a shelter building activity or a problem solving activity.
At the end of children only activities it was common for parents to be greeted with facts and knowledge they had learnt during the session. Would I for one minute think that a eleven year old would want to learn about the tides and coastal erosion, water evaporation and condensation during his holidays, no, however learning about the environment in a fun and practical way allows children to be immersed in their learning without even knowing it.
I’m not sure I would want to teach a class permanently on the beach as it certainly has its challenges but it definitely is a rich environment for supporting learning.