Playing & Learning Outdoors
What Are The Benefits of Beach Schools?
Beach Schools are a way of giving children in their early years the opportunity to learn and develop in a natural environment, sparking their intrinsic motivations to explore, create and be curious about the world around them. Beach Schools provide an opportunity for holistic development for young children, giving them good foundations for the rest of their life.
Why Beach Schools?
Bristol Beach Schools, as with other Beach Schools, follow the Forest Schools ethos. For example the adults use an observation based approach to interact with children’s play, using ‘teachable moments’ with Zone of Proximial Development and Sustained Shared Thinking Theory in mind. Another key theme of the Forest and Beach Schools ethos is creating relationships with nature. Children that attend Beach Schools get an amazing opportunity to connect with the natural environment of the beach; pebbles, sand, water, oozing mud as well as all of the habitats for wild animals. This offers a chance for children’s education to be completely learner centred. Children are involved in the decision making process about their experiences of the beach, their learning. To assist with this we ensure we have an emphasis on reflection and reviewing. Before, during and after Beach Schools sessions we give time for review and reflection time, loosely based on ‘Plan, Do, Review’ which the Highscope Approach inspired us with. This gives children the opportunity to use their metacognition and be fully aware of the learning processes we go through.
Beach Schools give children the opportunity to develop holistically. Holistic development combines an individuals mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual growth. By giving children the opportunity to develop in an environment such as those in Beach Schools, there is an increased potential for learning. From running free along the beach, making fires to toast marshmallows on, mark making in the sand with sticks, bird watching, tracking animals footprints, jumping over the waves, exploring crabs habitats to watching the local wind turbines work, the beach provides a wealth of learning opportunities. Being outside and being able to access these learning opportunities at the same time as being able to take in the fresh air and observe natural occurrences, we believe provides an even more amazing experience for children. Not only does Beach School provide these experiences, it also provides the opportunity for the magic of Awe and Wonder to inspire young children’s thinking and ideas.
Another strong principle of Forest Schools and therefore Beach Schools is the opportunity for safe risk taking. We use a risk benefit analysis to ensure that children can take their paths of play, learning and development to where they want. This is a vital part of ensuring that children can take risks without the worry or input from an adult. When adults feel confident in what they need to do to ensure risky activities stay safe, children can take the risks necessary to develop their theories of play. Most of these risk taking activities also involve some kind of physical activity, something as a sector we are focusing on a lot at the moment, fighting the battle against obesity in our young children.
Something we feel very passionate about is ensuring that we have qualified adults leading our Beach Schools sessions. Qualified Leaders mean that sessions can be confidently and safely lead to ensure the best experiences for children. We started Beach Schools when one of our practitioners trained as a Practitioner (Level 3 in Beach Schools Practical Skills and Environmental Management) in 2012. They won a Nursery World Enabling Environments Award in 2013 and were a finalist in the Nursery Management Today Awards, also in 2013 for the amazing learning experiences provided for young children. Our second nursery started a similar way if learning in 2016, also when Bristol Beach Schools was founded! We are aiming to spread the word about the amazing opportunity that Beach Schools can give children in their early years and their communities. We are really interested to speak to other Beach School Leaders about their experiences and want to explore the idea of beginning a Beach School Association to ensure children accessing Beach Schools get the best opportunities possible.
In a time that children are seen to be losing their connection to nature, deepening their connection to technology and spending less time outside than prisoners (in some cases!) we feel so proud to be taking part in a project that will hopefully give more children the opportunity to develop their relationship with nature and their lifelong skills outdoors.
By Cassie Holland – Co-Founder of Bristol Beach Schools.