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3 Ways to Have STEM Fun at the Beach

On hot summer days when school is out, many families head to the beach to cool down by the water. While shoreline adventures can be exciting on their own, there’s also ample opportunity to practice hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning in a whole new environment.

If you’re looking for educational activities to do with your family while you’re out catching waves or soaking up rays, we have three bright ideas for land and sea fun to get you started!


1. Aquatic Observations

While different beaches have different aquatic life, all offer a rich variety of creatures, both on land and in the water! One way to practice your awesome STEM skills is by observing the life around you like marine biologists. They study animals, plants and even microscopic organisms within the ocean.

Start by searching the sand at the edge of the water and in shallow areas at different times of the day. Alongside your child, take a walk early in the morning and see if you find any creatures or plant life on the beach or in the water. Then, do the same in the afternoon and evening. Did what you see change throughout the day? Where was the water at each time you took a walk? Consider grabbing a pair of goggles to help them get a peek under the water in shallow ponds, streams or tide pools.

Don’t forget to grab a journal to record your findings or a camera to capture your sightings!


2. Sandcastle Architecture

Grab your sand shovels, buckets and block molds and get ready to help your child build the castle of their dreams – with sand! To achieve their desired design, start by making a plan. Ask them key questions to get them thinking about their design. Do they want their castle to have tall towers? What about a moat? Could they use sticks, seashells or beach rocks to add details to the structure? You might even want to have them sketch their ideas in the sand!

As your child works hard to bring their vision to life, urge them to experiment with sand consistency. How does dry sand hold up versus wet sand? Can the sand be too saturated to stand strong? Materials are an important consideration for engineers to make sure their structures are safe and sturdy.


3. Sunscreen Science

Sunshine plays a key role in a successful beach day! However, too much exposure to the sun’s rays can have a negative impact on our skin. We’ve likely all experienced an uncomfortable sunburn, but sunscreen can help to prevent some of this damage. To show the difference sunscreen makes, give this experiment a try.

Start with a colorful piece of construction paper and draw a line through the middle to divide the paper in half. Next, have your child finger paint a design on one half using sunscreen lotion and leave the other side blank. Keep the paper in the sun with you while you’re at the beach – just make sure not to get the paper wet.

After an hour or so, check on the experiment. What happened to the side without sunscreen? Did the sunscreen lotion protect the design you created? To ramp up the activity, repeat this experiment with sunscreen lotions that have different levels of SPF (sun protection factor) or try comparing several brands of sunscreen lotion to see the impact of their ingredients on the results.


Keep Learning This Summer

Check out our blog for additional fun, hands-on ways to bring STEM learning to life all year long!

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