Each year before the warm weather disappears completely, we take one last trip to the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. It is a family friendly town with lots of typical shore attractions like carnival rides, boardwalk shops and lots of not so healthy, but tasty treats to eat.
There is much to explore beyond the boardwalk and raked beaches at the Jersey shore. We spend lots of time by the ocean but we also try to go off the beaten path a little and find what can’t be found on a beach that is plowed daily.
Teachable moments are easily found if you use the world around you as your guide. Being good observers and teaching your children to do the same creates opportunities for education everywhere you go. Our family is fortunate to have my husband, a self taught naturalist and observer of nature, who can identify many of the things we find while exploring. Even if you don’t know what you are looking at, teach your children to make observations and ask questions about what they see. Take a picture and investigate further online or at the library. Every new discovery is an opportunity to gain awareness and knowledge.
This year we visited the place where the ocean and bay meet. This spot changes year to year and we never know what to expect from the landscape when we arrive.
We can usually find some interesting things to examine. This year we found what looks like some type of seaweed we had never see before.
We found a whelk egg case and later found a live whelk in its shell.
We were also able to observe birds, hermit crabs, mole crabs and look closely at some (unfortunately) dead horseshoe crabs.
After checking out this spot, we went to another spot we frequent each year on the bay. We were able to find some interesting things there as well.
Aside from venturing to some more secluded places in Ocean City to investigate, there is a lot to learn on the ocean side where most people spend their time. We were able to find a ghost crab hole and a ghost crab.
Of course there is also tremendous value in the traditional beach activities like swimming and playing in the sand. When children are playing in the sand by the ocean, they are predicting, experimenting, making observations and studying the changing tides.
Educational or not, being at the beach is good for the soul. Keep your eyes open, investigate, question. Learn as much as you can with your kids and savor that soaring feeling that comes with being by the sea.
In part two, I will be sharing some educational day trips we took from Ocean City!
- Weirs Beach, New Hampshire
- Lessons from my son