Down at the Beach

Earth, sea and sky seem to merge together at the beach, offering a constantly changing symphony of sounds, colours, light, patterns, movement, textures and smells. Over the centuries the sea has provided inspiration for composers, artists, writers, dancers to create inspirational works.  The natural rich sensory playground of the beach and the sea offers everyone the chance to unwind, to observe, to listen, to maintain a sense of wonder, to see things with new eyes and come away inspired and refreshed.

Children love the sensory experiences of the beach as they explore, move, create, become immersed in imaginative play, collecting treasure: shells, driftwood, stones, smooth coloured glass. They especially enjoy having parents/teachers joining in with their collecting process. Take a bag to collect the treasure and another to pick up litter to put in the rubbish. This way you teach children the art of conservation and caring for our beaches and our land.

Have a stone symphony. Explore and compare the different sounds tapping two small stones that make high sounds, middle sized stones for medium pitch range and big stones with deep low sounds.

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After a storm if there is a lot of driftwood on the beach, make a driftwood xylophone placing two big pieces of wood at either end to make a rectangular sound box add two more long matching sized pieces of wood at the sides. Then place small “notes”on the sound box with graduated pieces of driftwood each one slightly bigger than the last until you have eight notes on the xylophone. Play with smaller nice sounding pieces of driftwood for the beaters. Listen to and experiment tapping each found driftwood note to develop a scale with a pleasing sound quality.

Make shakers/maracas with children 4-8 years using several tiny stones or shells or seeds from the beach adding a few or more to a small plastic container. Fill two with identical numbers of stones, or shells. Play listening games. What maracas sound the same? What maraca sounds very soft, very loud?

Look at the patterns of the waves, on the sand and combine these patterns into   dances, drama, or art work on the beach using natural materials such as toi toi or treasure washed up by the tide.  Patterns might include wave-like shapes in the sand, the koru/spiral pattern on a shell, footprints of birds or people.

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Create stories together and ask questions such as: What creature made these footprints? Who lives in this shell? Who lives in the sea?  Where do the birds fly to? Why do the tides constantly change? Read stories about beaches, islands, sea creatures, bird life. Explore the wonderful Maori myths and legends and those of other cultures about earth, sea and sky. Listen to music from our own and other cultures.

My award winning CD “ do the Bean Bag Bop” has several songs that children can use their beach treasure as musical instruments as they play along to track 6 “Stick Song”, track 7 “Down at the Beach”, track 8 “Stone Symphony”, track 9 “Pitch Song”, track ten “We are Making Music together” which begins with the sound of stones being tapped then maracas, then the ascending scale played on tubular bells. The theme is picked up by xylophones then whole orchestra.

Children love creating artistic visual patterns and arrangements with sticks, stones shells and they can constantly change these arrangements if they are given their own display table. They can also create their own musical patterns and music with their found sounds. Shared beach experiences such as these inspire a love of nature, a sense of wonder, a natural spontaneity, improvisation skills, creativity, playfulness, humour and sensitivity.

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 Monday 28th April 2014
– Julie Wylie