Ocean Science at the Beach

This post could be subtitled “Why we count beach vacations as school days.”  One of the things I love about teaching my children at home is being able to recognize the real learning that comes about in the course of our lives, without worrying about catching up on busy work missed from school.  Our recent trip to the ocean really reveals how that works in our family.

We had hands on experience with ocean science last week, as we took a quick trip to Pacific Beach to revel in sunshine, warm air and beach sand.  The kids had studied up on ocean science in the few weeks before our trip, learning about currents, tides and tidepools, so they were interested in thinking about some of the things they had learned.  But mostly, they were just delighted to play at the beach.

Max and Lucy running from the waves Max running from wavesWe visited Scripps Aquarium to see fish in aquariums.  My favorite part of this aquarium is the huge kelp forest tank, where the kelp forests off the coast of San Diego are recreated.  The kids especially enjoyed the jellyfish and the sea horses, which Scripps has in abundance.

seahorse aquariumScripps also has tidepool aquariums — man made areas where we saw many of the huge variety of creatures that live in this specialized environment.

seeing tidepools at scrippsWe were able to observe the tide going in and out, something not too easy for kids living in Utah to understand.  At low tide one evening, we visited the rocks on the beaches just south of Seal Rock in La Jolla to enjoy the tide pools.  We saw many anemones, large and small, small fish caught in the tide pools, barnacles, mussels, and hundreds of hermit crabs.

tidepools at La JollaThis sort of “live” experience is better than any sort of youtube video or book reading for helping us understand what the ocean really is.  Although the huge variety available in an aquarium or seen on tv is wonderful, it doesn’t match the experience of seeing it for yourself.  Of course, we didn’t have our camera with us when we walked to the end of the pier and watched dolphins swim past under our feet.  But our eyes saw it and our hearts will remember it.

There were some parts, however, that I’m not sure how to label as school — for example, would you call this mining science?  Or perhaps spa therapy training?

lucy burying Max buried in sandAnd the only name I can think of for what we did at Balboa Park was People Watching 101.

castle van, san diegoI guess in unschooling or interest-led learning, those are perfectly practical course options!

Another very interesting lesson was learned by the older kids.  Both Brett and Eden are reading The Grapes of Wrath right now, and traveling across the desert and through Barstow to southern California really made them understand the Joad’s journey.  What we traveled in a few hours in great comfort must have been quite a trip.  Eden kept commenting about the “weirdness” of reading about Barstow in Barstow.

Anyway, it was a great break from our normal routine, and left us refreshed to finish off winter with a smile.  Do you take a mid-winter break?  What is your favorite way to continue learning during vacations?  Please leave me a comment below.

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1 Comment

  1. I don’t have winter here, but during vacations I like to bring the children out to the beach or aquarium too 🙂

    Reply

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