Today I decided to take myself to the beach. I find the effect of the ocean releases creativity. So with a journal in hand, I walked down the cliff to the majestic Crystal Cove in California. The weather was perfect. There weren’t many people, so it provided the feel of a somewhat private beach.
As I settled in and took in the magnificence of the view of the cloud swept blue sky and the waves crushing over the rocks, I saw a group of four children digging in the sand. They were feeding their sensory systems while learning basic concepts of physics, erosion, and how lakes form. They were also learning a memory strategy, which later would provide them with material for writing.
The children had dug a deep enough hole big enough for their high school aged brother. Their goal was to fill it and make a pool.
Being a teacher and with their parents’ permission, I took the opportunity to capitalize on this moment of free exploration and asked them some questions. My goal was to help them become better observers of what was happening as they poured more water into the hole.
“Watch what happens to the sand when you pour the water into your pool?” One 6 year old, noticed that some of the sand went to the bottom of the pool making the pool wider. I told them that gravity was pulling the water down and any loose sand was being pulled with it. “This is called erosion.”
“Why do you think the water is forming a pond?” They couldn’t answer, so I asked them to see what happens when they pour the water onto dry sand.
Again the 6 year old eagerly came to report that the water disappeared. I explained that the dry sand sucked up the water. The reason the pool formed is due to the fact that the sand at the bottom sucked up as much water as it could and it caused the additional water to form a puddle and then a pool.
Many basic science concepts were being applied in this one activity. It involved physics as the water rolled down the hill and erosion as it took sand with it, depositing it at the bottom of the pool. These experiences, though not considered academic, are actually creating concrete experiences that will form a foundation of understanding that will make abstract concepts of physics and geology easier to understand in the future.
Children need opportunities to think and observe. They need to be encouraged to talk about what they are seeing and hearing. Parents can encourage creativity and out of the box thinking by asking them to see something else that they didn’t see before.
I was once challenged by a friend when we were on vacation to slow down and take a breath. She challenged me to dig a square box one foot square and just sit and look at that square and see what I hadn’t seen before. At first it looked like a rocking beach, but when I looked closer, I was amazed at what I observed. I never saw the shapes of the different tiny shells that made up the beach. There were also tiny bits of lava, and the best find of all was the smallest baby conch shell imaginable that fit in my pinky finger nail.
There is so much to see, but is missed because children are not taught how to observe. Encourage your children to take a minute and notice the feel and smell of the wet and dry sand. Have them notice the smell of the air. Suggest they notice the waves and how they change. See if they can follow the swell until it breaks on the shore and the notice of color changes it goes through.
I have my children focus on a scene, close their eyes, and see it in their mind’s eye. After they see it, I have them take a mental picture of it with their brain camera, and store it away for later. By time they leave the beach, they will have dozens of mental pictures to pull from that allows them to access the experience at another time.
This memory method is helpful when one is trying to remember a lecture or facts in a book. Many times I passed a test, because I could see the answer on the page of the book in my mind. This beach activity is preparing them with a learning strategy.
A journaling activity about the day would be a way of practicing this strategy while improving their writing abilities. It will offer them an opportunity to access their memory by pulling up the mental pictures they made at the beach. They will be able to recall a great deal more than if they hadn’t taken the time to truly look and see and form mental images of their day.
If children are reluctant writers, they might enjoy drawing what they can see in their mind’s eye. This will help building memory recall, which they can use in class in the fall.
Warning, taking pictures with a phone is a guarantee they will forget. Once we take a picture with a phone, we are sending the brain the message we don’t need to remember it. If the phone dies, the children have nothing to refer to as a writing prompt. If they form a mental image, all they have to do is close their eyes and pull up the picture of the scene they are describing.
The summer has many opportunities to prepare children for the fall without using workshee