I have spent the last 3 days in my element, helping children and adults to explore the shore and discover more about the residents of the rock pools and the marine wildlife of the North Kent coastline at Reculver Country Park. I am very fortunate to be working in partnership with the Hathats Coffee Company and Canterbury City Council. I do my very best to ensure my seashore safari events are filled with fun practical activities! This may involve eating sweet shaped jellyfish or shrimps to make the health and safety introduction more interesting (for both myself and my group of explorers!) or dressing up like a mermaid and waving around my purse to encourage the group to look out for mermaid’s purses (cat shark, ray or skate egg cases) that have been washed ashore!
I must confess my sessions also nearly always involve chocolate, which I’m sure must be justified by all that lovely fresh sea air and endless lifting and replacing of rocks! Easter eggs are a great way to capture children’s attention and encourage them to look out for jelly like worm eggs, the egg cases of dog whelk or the eggs of the female Green Shore Crab! Sometimes I even take my slippers to the beach as there are Slipper Limpets in abundance!
My beach bingo sheets (the content of which changes throughout the year, apart from a toy Gruffalo!) not only help to engage the children by focusing them to look out for shells, seaweeds, anemones etc. but spark adult competition, and this is priceless learning resource!
Yesterday one of the children in my group hurriedly made their way across the beach towards me with arms outstretched and said: ‘Anna I’ve found a brain!’ Regardless of whether I’ve seen something once or a million times before I always start with a ‘Wow (facial expression to match!), that’s incredible, can I have a look?’ A bright orange sea sponge was carefully passed to me! Now, if I hadn’t been Forest School trained I’d have probably said straight away: ‘Ah ha, this is a sea sponge,’ but instead we embarked on a discussion about whose brain it could be, it’s size, why it had holes, it’s colour and its texture ‘Really squidgy and spongey!’
This description eventually led to a discussion about sea sponges and complete amazement (if not a little disbelief!) that it was alive! Although it may be a drop in the ocean, a splash of Forest School thinking goes a long way to helping to make the experience more memorable.