Why the focus on the beach and not a woodland for your forest school? I get asked this a lot. Firstly, I must say I love the woods and I love working in them – they provide an incredible learning environment. Home to such depth and diversity – the opportunities for learning are endless. They also provide somewhere that is away from the norm, away from the traditional classroom environment. But so does the beach.
The intertidal zone is possibly the most diverse natural habitat in the world – the rockpools give us a glimpse of the marine world not normally accessible to us terrestrial mammals. The beach is also home to dynamic planetary forces playing out before your eyes, just by watching the ebb and flow of the tide. And being by the sea, in sight of the sea is simply good for you.
Here on the East Kent coast, we don’t have many trees – but we have beaches – miles and miles of them. Shingle, sand, jaw-dropping cliffs, awe-inspiring rockpools – you name it. It’s here. And I strongly (strongly!) believe that the most important job I can do as a Forest School Leader, as an educator, is to connect people with the environment that’s right on their own doorstep. Which is why I run Beach School – to bring people to the coastal environment that’s such a short distance from their homes. To build their confidence in this environment, so they can access it on their own terms. To build a positive relationship with the coast that may last a lifetime.
Which is also why Little Gulls is spreading its wings and diversifying. We don’t all live here on the coast – Beach School isn’t accessible to everyone. But just bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing and is possible in so many places, even urban ones.
Because being outside, learning outside, loving nature shouldn’t be just for those who can get to the woods, or get to the beach. There is so much right on all our doorsteps. Let’s get out there and explore it together.