Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beach

by Stacey Ebert / Apr 04, 2016 /
Stacey Ebert's picture

Gone to the Beach

Each year, as June rolled around in Long Island, New York, my students would inevitably ask me if we could have class outside. They knew of my love of sunshine and aversion to pollen. They knew of my connection to vitamin D and my delight in the benefits of fresh air. They knew of my adoration of flip-flops and my constant yearning for sand between my toes. Each time, I had to say no, as there was no way ‘their’ teacher could concentrate on the text or curriculum at hand from the instant the sun would reach my face. Perhaps if there was sand outside my windows in lieu of the itchy grass, I may have had a very different answer.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beach

For years, I’ve been a beach lover. As a child I holidayed on the sand, spent sleep-away camp at a Long Island beach, spent endless weekends at the town beach, and have spent years wiggling my toes in the sands of beaches around the world. Some think it’s ‘just a beach,’ but I know better. For decades, that’s been my happy place. I can find a tiny spot on a patch of sand and stare at the ocean as she continues to crash along the shore. Perspective happens here – you learn very quickly that you’re a small part of something much bigger in the world. I’ve spent hours with the water lapping at my heels as I wandered shorelines to collect shells and sea glass, wondering the stories they would tell or the places they’ve been. We’ve built community, shared stories, lived in a beach town, and enjoyed a shared love of coastal life with others. It’s not ‘just a beach’ - it’s a learning environment for the masses…if only we could all see it that way.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beach

The benefits of the beach are endless. Before I’d ever heard of ‘earthing,’ I knew. For me, it’s an entire learning environment complete with comprehensive education in most subjects all in one spot. From coastline to community, from wellness to artistry, from activity to science, from poetry to maths – it’s all there. A natural habitat that instills far more than textbook factoids, this three dimensional primary source document is welcoming to all, fully accepting, finds ways to modify experiences, and can be used year round. With Mother Nature as superintendent, body of water as principal, sand as teacher, and plants, animals, and humans as continued learners, there’s a multitude of knowledge waiting to be explored.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beach

The minute I smell the salty air, feel the breeze on my skin, and sand between my toes, something positive happens. For me, relaxation sets in, my mind finds ease, and I can think and learn better. While the answers to many of life’s questions dance in on the white caps of waves, the beach can be a healing spot. Meditate, do yoga, sit, read, dream, sleep, contemplate, feel – the beach can help with it all. With miles of coastline, artists of all kind come to create. There are days when rainbows fill the sunlit sky and nights of painted beauty as the sun descends past the horizon. Filled with historical knowledge steeped in tradition, coastal geology, and sometimes even battles, history happens here. Hosts to creatures and species of land and sea, all sorts of biology lessons are available. With erosion, natural disasters, and the ebb and flow of tides, maths and science have a daily working classroom. Complete with hard and soft sand, kinesthetic learners can expend boundless energy through miles of freedom. Surfers practice patience, stand up paddle-boarders work on stamina and strength, beach yoga challenges the body and mind, while swimming develops good health, endurance, determination, and so much more. Boardwalk fans delight in people watching, admiring views, finding interest in architectural and structural design, and maybe even enjoy a new boardwalk treat.

Travel and beach life are filled with education galore. Geography, topography, culture, and customs find their way into grains of sand, coastline botany, and tidal ceremonies around the world. The differences and similarities teach tolerance, patience, and endless cultural diffusion. Finding out that what you do, how you act, and what you wear at the beach nearest you may be different from that of a new place is a learning experience in itself. And yet, knowing that the feeling of your toes in the sand - whether you’re in Hong Kong or Tahiti, Australia or Brazil, New York or South Africa, Ireland. or the Maldives - will always provide the same comfort.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beach

In a time when specials and electives seem to be dwindling from American schools, the idea of alternative education becomes ever more attractive. Realizing that children can learn by doing, seeing, experiencing, and involving themselves in daily life in various places around the world is a realistic approach for many families. Time on the beach can be whatever we wish. Those ‘soft-skills that are never quantifiable happen here daily. Sharing, compassion, mindfulness, curiosity, patience, creativity, kindness, persistence. and so many others can be seen through shell collecting, sand castle building, picnic making, talking with lifeguards, surfing. and jumping through crashing waves.

Maybe it’s a time for togetherness with food, fun, festivities. and family bonding. Maybe it’s a classroom environment discussing poetry, creating artwork, learning marine and sea life biology. or seeking understanding in the magic of moonlight or the tides. Perhaps it’s a fitness class combining the benefits of nature with those of health and wellness. Perhaps it’s a beachcombing excursion to find whatever makes your heart happy in the moment and share your collection with others. Or perhaps it’s a cultural immersion day where without shared language, religion, nationality. or culture, children find the beauty in sharing pails and shovels to create the sand castle of their dreams. No matter the purpose, the lessons are real.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Beach

 

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand. Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.
 
All photos courtesy and copyright Stacey Ebert