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Explore the shore, in the field and at home, with Beach Academy

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If the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has taught us anything it’s how much as a species we need the outdoors. It’s our forgotten resource, a place of refuge, release and re-invigoration. Millions of adults could only dream of taking the family to the beach on a sunny Easter day this year and we need to remember how vital that freedom to explore nature and our local environment is to our health and well-being.

Teaching kids to look closely, to focus, to notice and be patient (Beach Academy Wales)
Teaching kids to look closely, to focus, to notice and be patient (Beach Academy Wales)

Kids too. Currently confined to bedrooms or cooped up in class learning, socially isolated and learning about nature through screens and tablets with the real connection to the outside world banned because of a virus.

And this needs to change. I think we have forgotten how to love the outdoors, we have taken it a bit for granted until we needed it most. We have let our busy days turn into a wild life, rather than take a moment to let wildlife calm our busy days.

My aim has always been to help kids, families and schools connect with the coast. I want to help educate, inform and engage in vast beach classrooms where the blue planet and its wonder is the only lesson. The more they know about an intertidal animal or plant, the more personally they feel connected to it. This is great news because we, as humans, care most about the things we feel most connected to.

Nature connectedness has been proven to improve health and well-being. Educators world-wide teaching outdoors have always known this. It brings us happiness and pleasure and we pass that on to the kids that we teach.

In search of starfish for live anatomy session (Beach Academy Wales)
In search of starfish for live anatomy session (Beach Academy Wales)

For me, one of the simplest ways to strengthen connections to nature on the beach is the act of identifying and naming. The need to name things starts very early and stems from a need to understand the world. I find I’m a walking and talking encyclopaedia with some cool facts thrown in and constantly expanding my own knowledge to pass on.

The beach is my classroom. Here, I am not afraid to show kids animals that sting and bite, to handle them correctly, to understand their anatomy and the reasons for their adaptations for survival. I teach kids how to look closely, to focus, to notice, be patient and to record. I won’t shy away from a washed up jellyfish swarm and will go in search of a whale to stimulate conversation and debate, to help kids feel, see, discover, empathise and invoke an emotional response.

Coast in the Post

Strandline identification with Emma (Beach Academy Wales)
Strandline identification with Emma (Beach Academy Wales)

But during these unprecedented times, we need alternative and unique solutions. As a Beach Teacher, I may not be able to do what I do, but I know what I know and even now, stuck in my own home, I’m sending Lockdown Learning Resources to kids across the UK and offering free fun Facebook Learning linked to our intertidal and marine environments.

‘Coast in the Post’ provides Coastal Kits linked to nature, art, numeracy and literacy that combine raw materials sent in the post (collected from south Wales beaches) with digital resources (worksheets/ideas/instructions) sent via email for parents to print, interact and learn from the objects. Kids are measuring the length of Orcas in their kitchens, comparing their sea snail with a garden snail, unzipping gull feathers and making crab lines for future beach trips.

Open for business

The beach environment is an extremely hard place to work. It’s unpredictable, wild, ever-changing uncontrolled, open to the elements and certainly throws up unknowns in the forms of marine wildlife and human hazards. It’s incredible. I love it. Beach teaching is raw and challenging with my knowledge of the natural world being tested daily. Beaches are an exciting, untapped learning environment ready to be discovered by enquiring minds.

Handling techniques taught in the field (Beach Academy Wales)
Handling techniques taught in the field (Beach Academy Wales)

When beaches re-open, I’ll be ready once again. My new dinky hub at Rest Bay, Porthcawl packed full of wonderful colourful beach stuff, offering trips and lessons to all and Rockpool kits to hire, will fling its doors open.

I have an outdoors optimism that people will realise what they have missed. I only hope that we don't forget this time in world history and grab every opportunity we can to get outside and learn lessons from our incredible planet.

Emma Lamport, Beach Academy Wales

How to 'rock' a Rockpool 

Nature recovers, fast. With our renewed enthusiasm for the outdoors, we need to be more mindful this time around of our human impact. To help families and schools get back on the beaches and taking part in one of the UK’s favourite beach pastimes, Rockpooling, I have created a free resource, How to rock a Rockpool.

Last year I made a start launching my ‘How to rock a Rockpool’ campaign at the European Marine Science Educators Association Conference. This simple ‘How To’ guide on the activity of Rockpooling contains a Rockpool code of conduct, animal handling techniques, correct equipment to use, plus options for pre-fieldwork eco-equipment that can be made at home or at school.

To support the guide, I offer staff training days, at any time of year, on any UK beach, school Rockpooling trips and Teacher Trugs plus family Rockpooling kits and events. For your free copy of the ‘How to rock a Rockpool’ guide, please email beachacademywales@gmail.com and if you would like to work with me or book training or a trip please get in touch.

Together we can protect intertidal marine environments for the future.

www.beachacademywales.com

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