Every school needs a beach

22 March 2009 · 0 comments

in General Commentary, Personal & Holidays

My son, MJ, typifies many children of today’s world. Given the choice he prefers to play a wrestling game on his PS2 rather than be outside enjoying the rare heat and sunshine beaming down on Inverurie. My husband was aghast when he discovered MJ had not packed a book to read on his holidays, preferring instead to take his beloved Nintendo and brand new mobile phone.

We went to Ullapool and Lewis for a week last summer. MJ bought into this a while back. He decided he was up for a cycling holiday on a Scottish island staying in youth hostels and bunkhouses providing I wouldn’t drag him up a hill. Instead we visited beaches.

I find watching children on a beach interesting. The weather doesn’t matter, no equipment is necessary and the type of beach unimportant. They immerse themselves in being there. MJ will rock hop for hours in search of pool-life and the thrill of wave watching. He will mess about on the sand, chuck stones into the sea and prod beached jellyfish until the sun sets. He is in flow and completely absorbed.

But more than that, MJ is asking questions, investigating and experimenting. He’s learning through play, aged 11 years. I reckon he learnt more science in three days on different beaches than a whole year at school. It makes me grin wryly to think that when I began teaching, the deputy head turned down my request for a bag of sand, telling me “Children don’t play in Primary 2. They’ve done their playing in Primary 1.”

Ah yes, back to beaches…
When I was at university, someone once stood for president on behalf of the Beach Party. The guy’s manifesto included creating beaches and inserting a wave machine into the campus loch. Hawaiian music was to be played in all the lecture theatres and pot plants replaced with palm trees. At the time I thought it was a novel idea. Now I’m thinking that creating beaches for every school might be a Good Thing. It could save money in the long run, as rising fuel prices impact on the cost of trips. So if you can’t take the children to the beach, then bring the beach to the children!

Jackman Avenue Public School in Toronto has made a great start to this concept. Their super-sized sandpit covers roughly 100 square metres. The stone seating area makes great rocks. All that’s needed is some salt water, driftwood and shells (we’ll give the jellyfish a miss)! Oh and some pebbles for the budding geologists.

That’s my blue ocean thought for today.

Postscript: My son’s phone did come in handy. I kept forgetting the camera, so he obligingly took photos with his phone. The Nintendo was abandoned in favour of a Darren Shan horror story which he picked up in a bookshop the day after we arrived in Ullapool. Demons that swore and ate teachers fed his imagination nicely all week. Since then he’s read every DS book published.

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