Lesson plan

Beach Exploration and Studies

Activities to explore the life, rocks and water on a beach, either rocky, sandy, or a mix.
See animals and seaweed in their natural habitat.
Science content
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Life Cycles (2)
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Earth/Space: Landforms, Erosion (3)
Earth/Space: Rock cycle, Earth Materials, Natural resources (5)

Choose activities appropriate to your beach.

Sandy beach focus
Look out at the sand and mud flats of a sandy beach.
Weathering rocks and Sand/mud study to show how a sandy beach is made.
Ask students to look around the sandy beach for life for signs of life. Prompt discussion to find at least beach grasses, birds and clam shells.
Collect clam shells and identify species. Dig for live clams if possible. Clam dissection.
Discuss what animals eat the clams, and how a food chain of living things has adapted to the sand and mud beach environment. Look for birds on the mud flats.
Sandy beach workbooks attached for Iona Beach.

Rocky Beach focus
Rocky beaches are rich with life. Start with habitat survey for students to discover the wide array of living things.
Follow with Seaweed study and/or watching barnacles feeding.
Rocky beach worksheet attached.

Erosion focus
Conduct this lesson at a beach with cliffs or overhangs that have been eroded by the waves.
Weathering rocks activity to show how the waves break up rocks. Discuss how they are then carried down rivers to the ocean ("erosion"), where they are deposited in quiet bays to form a sandy beach ("deposition").
Sand/mud study to identify all the different rock colours in sand, followed by an exploration of beach rocks to find the same colours and identify the rocks. Vancouver beaches commonly have sandstone (a sedimentary rock), basalt (an igneous rock) and granite (igneous). Look in more detail at the minerals in granite. Look on the beach for smaller pieces of quartz - clear or yellowish and more shiny.
Walk along the cliffs/overhanging rocks and discuss how they have been weathered by the waves. Identify high tide lines etc from the shape of the cliffs. Look for other weathering patterns in rocks e.g. rounded holes from a pebble rubbing against a larger rock.

Intertidal study with Tides discussion
If the moon is visible, look at it while discussing how it causes the tides (to an age appropriate level of detail):
The moon has gravity, and pulls the ocean water towards it. Because of the difference in the gravitational pull of the Moon on the near and far side of the Earth, water is also pulled out on the opposite side from the Moon. The Earth rotates under the tidal bulges, so each point on earth moves through two high tides.
The sun also pulls on ocean water. When the sun and the moon are lined up (new or full moon) the tides are higher (called spring tides). This happens twice a month. At half moon, the sun and moon are pulling water in different directions, so the tides are lower (neap tides).
The land masses and the varying ocean depths mean that the tides are on a more complex cycle than this, but they all originate with the pull of the moon on water.

List of challenges for students to work through
Students can be given a series of challenges (see attachment for an example), that encourages closer looks at beach life and rocks.
Give students equipment as they need it (magnifiers, bowls or tubs, pH test kit).

Start or end with a large group activity of Beach Life Bingo: bingo game with beach life, both living and washed up.


Weir (at Jericho): Barnacles and Mussels, Seaweed Study, Baby Shells and Sand Study, followed by Beach Bingo.
McBride: Barnacles and Mussels, Seaweed Study, followed by Beach Bingo
Sexsmith visited a Sandy Beach (Iona Beach) then a Rocky Beach (Whytecliff Park), comparing the two. Rock weathering, Sand/Mud study, Clam dissection at Sandy Beach. Habitat Survey and Seaweed study at (rainy) rocky beach.
Simon Fraser (2nd Beach with Mari) grade 1/2 did seaweed study and sand study.
isas Spring 2017: seawater (and stream) pH test, barnacles
Fraser SRP (3rd Beach with Elaine and Diane): habitat survey, seaweed study
Gordon (below Tatlow): habitat survey, seaweed study, barnacles, hunt for rock types including granite, look at moon for tides discussion
Strathcona (Crab Park): habitat survey (hunt for beach life), clam and mussel dissection, hunt for rocks including granite
Strathcona (Stanley Park Second Beach): habitat survey (hunt for beach life), barnacles feeding, sand study, magnetite in beach sand
Hudson (Hadden Beach West end): habitat survey (hunt for beach life) (barnacles did not open up)

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5