Thursday, August 23, 2012

Exploring Tidepools

Information for Mom and Dad

When you go exploring tide pools with your kids it becomes a really fun opportunity for learning through experience and the excitement that goes with that experience.  Who doesn't love finding special treasures - and in particular, cool living things - at the beach?

Limpet and barnacle

If your nearest marine or aquatic environment is tide pool free and tide pooling is simply out of the question, you might try building an aquascope (instructions on and allowing your kids to see what they can find while wading at the water's edge instead of in tide pools.  It depends on the beach how likely it is your kids will find lots of critters this way, but some locations are still conducive to some exciting finds this way too.

For Safety's sake, please know enough about the life you will find in the marine ecosystem you will be visiting, so you can identify anything dangerous.  Many sea jellies and anemones are perfectly safe (including to touch), but there are also many that can sting.  Some fish, octopods and other critters can also pose hazards to some one who is unaware.  Also, not all shorelines are conducive to what is usually thought of as beach foot ware.

Many things you might find are touchable, but to keep the critter safe, touch gently and once only if at all.

There are some rules any conscientious observer should follow when exploring rocky beaches and tide pools (well, anywhere really) to help preserve the space and leave the animals living and in the condition in which you found the animals.  If you pick anything up or roll anything over where there are living things such as barnacles, crabs and seaweeds put it back where you found it and in the same position it was already in (This includes rocks, seashells and other beachy things).  It probably provides shelter to something and at the beach location is especially important because it impacts what exactly can live on or under the rock, rusting old pail or seashell, because beach zone matters to a lot of these critters too.

Rock Crab

Beach zones have to do with how often that part of the beach is no longer underwater.  Animals like many species of barnacles can survive this on a twice-daily cycle and have ways to deal with extended time out of the water.  Sea pens and cucumbers however, are only adapted to be out of the water for very short periods of time during rare extreme low/high tidal cycles and even then they are not well adapted to the situation.

The Final Rule is NOT to "help".  As cruel as it may seem, "helping" wild things without a lot of prior training can actually be harmful.  In fact, in his book, "There's a Hair in my Dirt", Gary Larson illustrates this perfectly when the princess throws a tortoise (dry land animal) into a lake and causes it to drown thinking it is a turtle struggling to get back to the water to swim.  Depending on the animal, you can also wind up getting hurt yourself as well.  If you happen upon a beached sea mammal that needs help, call the wildlife management department for your area and let them help.

Harbor Seal

Learning Activities

Photographic Scavenger Hunt

If you will be visiting the beach soon try this list for your Photographic Scavenger Hunt:
  1. An animal with two shells (a bivalve such as a clam or scallop).
  2. An animal with one shell that coils (a gastropod - crabs and other crustaceans DON'T count)
  3. An arthropod such as a crab, shrimp, lobster, barnacle, insect or isopod.
  4. Three different kinds of algae (most seaweeds are not plants, nor are they animals, but colonies of protists we call algae.  Just like with plants and animals there are many species).
  5. Something living on top of something else that is also living (like a barnacle stuck on a crab's back).
  6. Something man-made that is used at the beach or by boats (pilings, buoys, floats and markers, shovel and pail).
  7. Three different rocks.
  8. Land Plant that lives at the beach edge.
  9. Three different types of shore birds.
  10. 10 pieces of plastic to take to the trash can.
  11. Someone's Bare Feet (yours can be included) and/or footprints from humans or other animals that have used the beach.
  12. One or Two Beach Treasures (something you wish you could take home but will make-do with a picture instead: a piece of beach glass, a special rock or a seashell free of attached living things).

Nature Journal Entry

You might incorporate this activity into a larger travel journal if your trip to the beach is a part of a longer/larger journey further away from home than an average day trip.  You might even use this entry as a beginning to an ongoing nature journal if you haven't started one already.

Present this one to the kids when you first arrive at the beach, but allow them to revisit the journal entry a couple of times during the day. 

When you first arrive before even getting out of the car, have your kids write a heading that includes the date, location, and a brief description of weather conditions.

Give your kids an hour or so to play and then have them sketch of the location in general.  The journal should then include a brief description with information like whether or not you are at a sandy beach intermingled with rocky tidal areas, or if you at a pebbly beach or just a rocky shoreline and about how many people seem to be present.

At some point during the day, have your kids draw a single tide pool of choice and the residents found living in that one tide pool.  You might also ask them to sketch (or photograph and describe in words) their favorite tide pool critter from different angles. 

Finally, have your child/children describe a highlight of the day when they get to the end of their day.

Take a Look at Beach Zones

Show your kids the image showing beach zones in California.  Especially if you were at the beach during an extremely low tide, ask your kids to make a similar diagram for the beach you visited.  They'll need to get photographs of everything they find and then do a little research to identify everything or have a key you can all use together to identify things while you are at the beach.  Then, upload a scan of their work and send me a link on the comments below.

But I can't Even Get to a Beach!

Of course the best way to give kids a sense of life in the tidal zone is for them to see it themselves.  However, if you can't get to a shore that is great for tidal life, OR an aquarium the next best thing are books, videos and a student-made model of a tide pool.

Related Book Favorites

A House for Hermit Crab - Eric Karle
Sign of the Seahorse - Graeme Base
Life in a Tide Pool - Janet Halfman
Life in a Tide Pool - Alan Fowler

Student Made Model

Use a painter's tray (because they are slanted) and using clay, form a model of a rocky beach with a few tide pools in it (they must actually be able to hold water).  Place your tide pool structure in the pan so it is in the area that slants but not deep.  Fill the pan with water and then slowly scoop water out of the pan from the deeper end.  Kids will see how as the water recedes, pools of water can be left behind.  Now look up pictures of life from the intertidal zone and sculpt small versions of those animals to put in your tide pool.

Images and Video to Access

Short Kid's Music Video about Tide pools

Great Series of Fabulous Photos with title headings giving name of thing in photo you are about to see set to cheerful music.  "Some Things I Saw in the Tide pools"

Additionally, there is great footage from Alaska's Tourist Bureau, Monterrey Bay Aquarium and a few others if you simply do a search on Youtube for your Area and Tide pool video for kids.  Make sure to preview your finds because once in awhile a tide pool will include a nude hominid based on the search I did.


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