Blog Post by Sarah Vick | Graphics by Haylee Leonard

As the school year starts up again, you don’t have to leave all the fun parts of summer behind. Bring the beach back to the classroom by incorporating STEM-related elements of the beach into lessons for your students. Children will learn about the beach while having fun and developing positive attitudes towards STEM.

Children’s desires to be scientists decreases with each rising grade. According to U.S. News, one-third of students are reported to lose interest in science by the fourth grade. By the eighth grade, half of students either lose interest in science or don’t plan to pursue a science-related education or career.

With the hands-on activities below, you can bring the beach back to school and the fun back to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at an essential point in students’ education.


You’ll need water, sand, rocks, and shells for the children to examine. You can also include these optional extras in your lesson: beach balls, beach umbrellas, and shovels and buckets for sand and water play.*

Facts & Activities:



Facts: Teach the children how sand is formed while they play with it. Sand is made from millions of tiny broken rocks and shells. The waves in the ocean carry the sand to the shore and move it around. There are an estimated seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion (or 7.5 x 10^18) grains of sand on Earth.

Activity: Tap into engineering by having students brainstorm and build a sand castle. Is sand easier to build with when it’s wet or dry? How does it feel? Did you build a moat for it?



Facts: Sea creatures live inside of shells. While humans have their skeletons inside, crabs and other sea creatures have external skeletons in the form of shells. Like bones, shells are made mostly of calcium and act as protection.

Activities: Shells make great counters, so add some math to your lesson! Fill a jar with shells and ask children to guess how many shells it holds. Count them out and see who had the closest guess. Children can also decorate their sand castle with these shells to apply math to real life. Tell them how many to place on or around the castle in the form of math problems. Example: Place 3x2 shells at the front of the castle. How many shells are you placing? You can also sort the shells by type. Ask students to identify different characteristics of shells and sort them accordingly.


Facts: Ask children if they’ve ever noticed the ocean rising and falling if they’ve been to the beach. That’s the tide coming in and going out. Tides are controlled by a gravitational pull from the sun and moon. When water levels rise, it’s high tide. When they fall, it’s low tide.

Activity: Learn more about tides and how they’re measured at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

Sea Turtles

Facts: Sea turtles lay 100–200 eggs on the beach. Because the turtles leave their eggs alone two months before they hatch, the newborn turtles have to make it to the ocean themselves to avoid hungry birds, crabs, and other predators. When sea turtles grow up, they migrate back to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs!

Activity: Ask the little architects in your classroom how they can help get the baby sea turtles safely to the ocean. Would they want to build a slide or ramp structure? Would they build a cover to protect the turtles from birds of prey?


Dolphins & Whales

Facts: Teach the students that dolphins and whales are actually mammals, meaning they breathe out of their lungs and do not have gills. They can hold their breath underwater for anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes!

Activity: Engage with technology by observing the whereabouts of multiple kinds of whales with this interactive live tracking website.


*Bonus: You can use the beach umbrella as a fun prop to decorate your classroom like a real beach! The shovels and buckets will assist in the exploration of sand and construction of sand castles. The beach ball can serve multiple purposes; it can be used as a “talking stick” as an alternative to hand-raising, for a game to get kids moving, or you can write STEM-related questions and vocabulary words on the ball.

Do you have any ideas on how to bring the beach back to school through STEM? Send them our way; we’d love to see what you’ve come up with! Don’t forget to connect with us on Pinterest, and be sure to visit our Insights & Inspirations section for even more STEM ideas.

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