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Entries in waves (1)


Sand and Surf: Teaching Ideas for a Beach Unit

In Southeast Louisiana, the weather is getting warmer and everyone is planning (or at least dreaming) of trips to the beach.  It's a great time to dive in and explore how beaches are created, surf the waves, and  the intertidal zones.  Don't worry! If it's still too cold where you are, I have included a few amazing links for a virtual field trip.  No sunscreen required!
Getting Motivated!
To kick off this unit, have students collect photos or video clips of their favorite beaches.  These can be of places they have been with their families or places they hope to visit one day.  It doesn't matter!  The more variety the better!  If possible, use all "gathered resources" to create a beach montage.  Animoto or iMovie works great!
Questions for Reflection:
  • How are these beaches different?
  • How are they alike?
  • Identify characteristics of beaches

Literary Resources:

How are Beaches Formed?
This story begins by considering the dynamic process of weathering.  To discover how beaches are formed, you need to first consider the mountains.  Physical and chemical weathering causes these "majestic rocks" to break down into sediments.  Rivers and streams carry this sediment to larger bodies of water, like lakes and oceans.  In the beginning, this sediment is deposited onto what we consider beaches.  With the help of waves, however, this sediment is carried back and forth from shore to ocean floor.
Explore further:

Beach Zones in Shallow Marine Environments

Using online graphic art programs like, Splash Up or Sketchpad, have students create a diagram of the beach zones in a shallow marine environment.  In addition, you may have them create various images of different coastal features.  I have listed wonderful resources.

The Sands of Time
We all enjoy sandy beaches, however, it takes time for these earthly treasures to form.  My husband and I brought sand back from our trip to Kuaui.  The kids are amazed at how different it looks from the sand they are used to seeing on the Gulf Coast beaches.  Using the links below explore: content of sand, tidal flats versus beaches, grain size, and how sand is broken down. 
Intertidal Zones and Tide Pools
Using the following links, have students (or your kids :) create illustrations of the intertidal zones and tide pools.  This activity worked for preschool through sixth grade. Amazing!  To add extra creativity, I had them draw pictures of sea life present at each stage and discuss the challenges faced in each zone for these creatures.
Beaches are shaped by crashing waves.  As a matter of fact, coastline erosion is due in large part to this force of nature. Waves actually move in a clockwise, circular motion, not in a straight-line, forward motion.  In addition, waves approach the beach at angles creating a long shore drift.  This process moves grains of sand along the coastline molding and shaping the appearance of the beach.  Using the links below, explore these and other features of waves.  Consider the following questions:
  • What is long shore drift?
  • What factors influence wave height?
  • What is the difference between a jetty and breakwater?
  • How do winter beaches differ from summer beaches?
  • What is a swell?
  • Define the following terms: crest, trough, and wavelength.


  • Write a paragraph or story about visiting a beach, tide pool or tidal flat.  Describe in great detail the appearance of the coastal area as well as the animal life present.  Use information from your research to guide your writing.
  • Imagine you are a grain of sand on a beach.  Describe your journey.  What future adventures might you face as a result of long shore drift and the powerful, driving force of waves?
  • Surf the web! Research why Hawaii is such a great spot for large, breaking waves and a favorite among surfers.
  • Compare and contrast tidal flats and beaches.  Include a detailed description of the types of plants and animals that inhabit both regions.  Display your research in a glog.

 This post was designed to kick start your own unit study and supplement your teaching materials.  Enjoy!