When the Ocean Becomes the Teacher

Here’s a fascinating learning story from a recent trip to the beach with our smaller outdoor program group.  We often say that the environment is the third teacher.  This story is a great example of how that can work.

D thought it would be fun to “launch” a small driftwood log out into the ocean. Then he and J would wait patiently for the waves to bring the log back to the point where they could actually reach out and get the log. They did this over and over many times.  In fact I marvelled at how long they spent with the task considering the fact that there was a lot of watching and waiting involved.

They both had to use some self-regulation to keep from wading right into the water and huge amounts of patience as the waves were barely a ripple and each time it took several minutes for the log to finally come within reach.

Can you think of a more fun way to learn patience?  I cannot!  If we told the children “today we are going to practice patience,” it would probably be met with a huge groan or protest.  And yet this was a pastime that seemed like it might continue all morning!

Then I asked about what might help get the log back faster.  (I couldn’t let the ocean be the only teacher that day.) D had two ideas:

He explained we either needed a wave maker to create bigger waves or something long to help reach the log from a further distance.

Problem-solving at its best!

Reflecting on these ordinary moments shows me what a great teacher the ocean can be and why the outdoor classroom is so valuable.

The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky.   -Margaret McMillan


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