How to turn a trip to the beach into a lesson

Not all “field trips” have to happen intentionally. Nearly every outing with your child can be packed with organic learning experiences, especially when they naturally connect with the unit study themes you have completed together.

One example? A trip to the beach. Especially if you’ve completed our Level 1: Ocean Unit or Level 2: Ocean Unit, a day trip or family vacation to the beach is one of the best ways to bring all the lessons to life.

Of course, part of the magic of field trips is that you, the homeschooling grownup, don’t really have to work that hard to create an experience where learning happens. Your child has a natural hunger to learn more about what they see and are exposed to—all you have to do is facilitate the experience. So while this post shares a few simple ideas to help your child get the most out of a field trip to the beach, don’t overthink it. And remember: The purpose of field trips is experiential learning, not necessarily intentional teaching.

So let’s hit the surf! Here’s how to turn a trip to the beach into a lesson they’ll love.

First, doing a little background research might be helpful to make the most of your environment.

Depending on what beaches you visit, you will have a great variety of marine and bird life to investigate and observe. A few quick google searches (or picking up a local pamphlet or guide) will help you identify the animals you are most likely to see. From diving sea birds to hatching sea turtles, talking about the animals around you is a natural way to make connections from the stories, pictures, and videos you learned about and real life.

Work in math, science + literacy naturally with a “treasure hunt.”

There are always treasures to discover on the beach! Collect seashells and sort them, comparing size, shape, and color. Compare and contrast coral and rocks. You might even find shark teeth! If we were writing a scope and sequence for a curriculum, these activities would go under math, science, and literacy skills—but on a field trip or family vacation, they are simply play. Of course, you’ll know these fun activities are a natural way to reinforce all those important lessons and skills your child will need to build on in later years.

Remember that less is more—especially when it comes to planned activities.

The best part about outings is that it actually means a lot less work for you when it comes to experiential lessons. Instead of feeling like you need a bunch of materials, let the learning happen naturally. Instead of shovels and buckets, you can let your child dig in the sand with their hands or even “tools” they find, like shells and sticks. All that hard finger work is developing those little muscles and fine motor skills they’ll need as they get older, and not having toys encourages them to work their imagination.

Use time away from the “school room” to prioritize life skills.

Practical work and life skills are often one of the most undervalued skill sets in traditional school, and they’re easy to forget when we get in a habit of table work, too. But field trips remove those boundaries, helping you focus on skills that are incredibly important but not always included in a curriculum. One example that you can definitely practice on a beach trip is swimming! As your child works from trepidatiously approaching the waves to swimming (or even snorkeling!) in the water, you’ll watch their skills—and their confidence—grow. And, don’t forget, all that kicking and splashing is working importance gross motor skills, too!

And remember: One of the many benefits of child-led learning is that it takes a lot of pressure off of you. Trust your child and trust the process—we promise you’ll be blown away at how much they learn!

Craving more structure or challenge? Here are some simple activities to try:
  • Create scavenger hunt ten frames. Using your finger or a stick, draw 10 ten frames into the sand. Have your child collect 10 shells, 10 pieces of coral, 10 rocks, etc., to fill each frame until they are all full. Next, practice counting by tens and to 100!
  • Bring one of your child’s favorite books from our units to read during lunch time. We love Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan.
  • If the whole beach is too overwhelming for younger children, create a sensory bin experience by drawing a rectangle in the sand and hiding a few treasures for them to dig up with their fingers.
  • Keep the learning going even after you leave! Did your child fall in love with the dolphins or sea turtles? Can they not stop talking about the seagulls? Go with it! After your visit, check your library for books about the topic, try Netflix or Disney+ for documentaries, or purchase figurines of the animals to use as manipulatives in other lessons.

Most importantly, though, we hope you remember the primary purpose of field trips: To have fun! Let the lessons come to life organically and let your child’s interests lead the way, and the love of learning is sure to follow.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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