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  • Lynn Coalson

Playing Safe Around Waterways, Part 2: Beach Play

We're going to the beach. We're going to the beach. We're going to have fun and play in the sun. We're going to the beach! We're going to the beach. We're going to the beach. We'll be so brave and jump into the wave. We're going to the beach!

The Outside Kids can be heard singing this loud and clear as we walk down our beautiful beach access. Beach play is a big part of our curriculum! It encompasses so many real life hands-on meaningful learning experiences. Children, and most people, learn best by doing. Not watching, not reading about, but actually doing. The beach gives us lots of opportunities for doing, surrounded by nature's sensory symphony.

Passersby often say "You have quite a handful there!" I always respond with ''A handful of fun!"

Yes, accompanying a group of eight children on our beach day field trips can be quite a handful. But we can handle this handful because our Outside Kids know our safety guidelines and know that they have to follow them. We practice safety rules everyday, in the water and out. All have had swimming lessons and are comfortable in or near the water. Experience is the best teacher, and although we don't plan for mishaps and do all we can to prevent them, we are prepared for them.

Here are our Beach Safety Rules in a clamshell:

Prior to start of the field trip-

1. Our cell phones are charged up, the emergency contact list is in writing in the attendance box, and on teachers and TA’s cell phone

2. We go down to the beach before the children arrive to do a safety check in our area for hazardous materials.

3. We pack the first aid kits, cell phone, sunscreen, marine life ID chart, and water bottles in all teachers’ backpacks.

4. Attendance log is placed in the beach wagon with a signed permission slip for every child.

5. When the children arrive, they all get to help load the wagon with beach shovels nets and other scientific equipment.

Finally, it's time to go!

The helpers of the day get to pull and push our wagon, while everyone follows along behind the wagon. The helpers also lead us in our street crossing snappy safety song.

Everybody look to your right. Everybody look to your left. Look behind and look in front. Tell me if it's safe to cross the street.

We sing another silly little tune to help the Outside Kids stay alert and aware of their friends' presence. "Willaby-Wallaby-Wack. An elephant sat on Jack!" We sing the song over and over again so each child's name is called out. On the boardwalk, we remember our safety rules through call and response.

“When can you go in the water?"
"With a teacher!"

We stay by the wagon while we pull it over the dune and onto the beach.

Once we're on the beach, we greet our Lifeguard on duty (Memorial Day through Labor Day). We always do this first and ask the Lifeguard about the surf conditions. We make a point to speak loudly so that the children can hear us. "How are the surf conditions today?" and "Is this a safe place for us?" We inform the Lifeguard of our head count and number of teachers. We ask about run outs, jelly fish, and tide. This is VERY important and a good habit to keep.

The Outside Kids have to stay with the wagon until we reach the final designated beach spot, and the teacher declares, "We are here! X marks the spot!" while the Helper of the Day draws a large X in the sand. Then we set up "Beach Camp." Everyone helps unload the wagon! Shoes are put in the wagon while teachers set up the Shibumi shade.

Next, we gather the children to sit on beach blanket for a Safety Signal review and head count:

1. "Look at me" - wave arms overhead with criss-cross motions.

2. "Come back fast" - both arms extended in front, from the shoulder. Bend at elbows towards torso

3. "Stop" - both arms make a pushing motion, hands flat

4. Call and response

When can you go in the water?

With a teacher!

What happens if you forget?

You sit on the beach blanket

How deep can you go?

Knee deep!

What TIDE is it?


What direction is the long-shore drift?

North or South

5. Conduct run-out drill games

6. Remember the Marine Life safety rule: "Ask a teacher before you touch it."

The Helpers of the Day set up the safety cones to designate play area boundaries.

We always have one teacher on the sand or tide pool, and one teacher in the shallow water.

Finally, we can go in the water with a teacher and play!

Periodically, all staff members (teachers and volunteers) communicate head counts to each other with hand signals.

We call mandatory water/rest breaks in 15-minute intervals. All children come to the beach blanket where they will take some big gulps of water and reapply sunblock. This also allows for another headcount and a check-in. Then the play resumes right where it left off, until the teachers sing "I have a Knack it's time for snack!"

Snack time allows for a headcount and necessary nourishment! Outside Kids expend a lot of energy and need adequate calories to keep up. When each child is done eating they will politely asked to be excused, take one more drink of water and put their snack packs away. Outside Kids leave no trace.

Beach Play continues while the teachers signal head counts to each other from play areas. It is very important that the teachers take turns guarding the play areas, so that we all get time in the water to cool off. Boogie boarding, dolphin diving, wave jumping, along with construction projects in the wet sand can create hungry tummies.

Lunch Bunch allows for another headcount, sunscreen application and check in.

After lunch bunch, we all have work to do. We gather all the equipment and pack up our wagon with all our gear. We check to see if we have left a trace and if we have, we retrieve right away.

As we leave the beach, we say thank you to the ocean, and wave goodbye to the waves, the sand and shells, the seagulls, the dolphins, the crabs, the lifeguard, and any one or anything that made our beach day special!

Outside Kids have lots of fun. We play outside in the rain and the sun. We love the earth; it's our special place. Outside Kids leave no trace!

Whoosh! The Outside Kids are utilizing their scientific equipment to measure the force , motion and rhythm of the waves.


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