Mitchelville beachOne of my favorite things is finding places to learn that are outside of the classroom. When it comes to teaching, my motto is “Make it Your Classroom.”  As one of your child’s most important teachers, your classroom can be anywhere, from driving in the car to the store, to hiking Pickney Island. When driving over one of our many bridges just simply ask the question, “Is it low or high tide?” This one question can spark your child’s interest and lead to an animated educational discussion in your car.  You have the power to make any space your classroom this summer!

 Being able to go to different places and explore new ideas and concepts is a great way to learn spontaneously. Living on Hilton Head Island, we have many places filled with natural beauty and wonder just waiting to be explored.  I took my class to Mitchelville Beach every Friday for an educational beach walk. As a Master Naturalist of the Lowcounty, I was  inspired to teach my students every day about our local flora and fauna that surrounds our beautiful island.

Using the book Living Beaches of Georgia and the Carolinas by Dawn and Bran Witherington, we began our stroll down the shoreline looking for anything that caught our eyes. I have found that when I am excited about identifying a sea creature, my students get excited too! One day,  we identified a Cannonball Jellyfish and a Mushroom Cap Jellyfish. Both types don’t sting, which of course led to the question, “Can I touch it!?” Needless to say, we skipped over that experiment!  As we were reading about descriptions in our guide book, we (I included) learned together that a group of jellyfish is called a “smack”!

How cool is it to be able to learn with your students or children?! It forms a connection, and it teaches them that it is okay to research things you don’t know and embrace each moment as an opportunity of learning.  As we continued our walk, we identified many types of shells, the common “Sea Pork” that we find washed up on Hilton Head beaches, and something new that I haven’t seen, “Sea Whips”. Sea Whips come in all sorts of colors, and the one my student found was a vibrant shade of purple.

We ended our lesson by sitting peacefully on the beach and reflecting on what we had learned. We chatted about the different creatures we had discovered along the shoreline and what we might find next time. As we walked back to the car, I heard my students talking about how “Maybe a smack of jellyfish will wash up on the beach!” and “I have a sea whip at home on my mirror!”. This made me smile. Not only did they comprehend what I had taught them and made connections, but they were sharing the excitement of learning. What will you  discover on your “Living Beach” walk?

Emma is a teacher at The Island Academy of Hilton Head. She has been educating children for ten years in New York and South Carolina. Emma has her B.S. in elementary education and her M.Ed. in literacy.