Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beach Learning: Exciting Young Minds to Engage, Explore, & Enjoy

This blog post is dedicated in loving memory of Uncle Bob, a larger than life character who filled our hearts with love and laughter. We will miss you!

Our family quickly packed our bags this weekend and headed to Daytona Beach, Florida to be with, comfort our loved ones and grieve together. During this time, Caleb and I took a few walks on the beach together. While he’s been to the beach dozens of times, he’s at an age now where he’s starting to take interest in the sounds he hears and the sights he sees. His curiosity lifted my spirits and together we were excited by the sensorial experiences  offered by the beach. 

This same beach has been a vacation stop ever since Andy and I got married 12 years ago. I’ve always enjoyed collecting shells during each visit to share with my classroom kids, but this trip was different. The sizes and shapes of the shells that scattered the beach were unlike what I’ve seen in the past. My own excitement for seeing such unique and beautiful shells was the trigger that encouraged Caleb to become engaged in this beach exploration. We started out just by collecting different shells that caught our eye. It brought me joy to hear his excited voice shouting, “Look Mommy!” 

We  were collecting shells here and there when I heard him say, “What’s in there?”  I looked and saw him leaning over a crab hole to see inside. This lead into a discussion about crabs and why we don’t put our fingers in holes.  

As we were walking along the beach, I pointed down to a footprint made in the sand by a large dog and asked Caleb what made this shape in the sand. I reminded him of the large dog we had just seen pass us. Then, he found one that was smaller. We talked about how this must have been a different dog. A dog smaller than what we had seen earlier. 

Caleb noticed some birds scurrying around between waves. As we got closer to the birds, we commented on all the footprints they were making in the sand. At that point, I saw it click. He began walking behind me noting, “Mommy footprints.”  Then, he looked behind himself as he walked to spy his own footprints created as he walked in his boots.  During our second trip, he wore tennis shoes, which was another fun discovery for him.

On this trip, we found several bird feathers, a jelly fish, a sand dollar and a shell that we analyzed for a long time because even Mommy had never seen one quite like it. As we were walking, I noticed a shell that had just recently been washed ashore fresh from a wave. It was a beautiful iridescent color with a thin shell. I picked it up to move it away from the waves and as I was setting it down we both heard some crackling. I placed it in the sand where we spotted that the shell had open up a little. We could tell with the sunlight shining through the back that something was moving inside so it must be alive. Since it was still alive, we decided the best thing to do was throw it back into the ocean. Once I got home and posted a picture on Facebook, I had a friend share that this was a Pinnidae or Pen Shell, which is a large saltwater clam. 

In the midst of sorrow, we can find hope and joy in the world that God created.
* We became excited by  the experiences the beach offered us.
* We were engaged in our exploration by the beauty, novelty and rarity of the objects we observed.
* We enjoyed our time learning and our time together as mother and son.

God Bless your Learning Days,

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