If I ran my own school, it would be at the beach, with set times for internet access, and most lessons held in the open air. I am often concerned about the amount of time young people, and I mean the very little folk who are dear to my heart, spend in front of iPads, iPods, Androids, mini DVD players and other devices, or ‘vices’ of the technological kind. I’m not being a hypocrite here: I’m also quite fond of the internet and this post on my blog is testimony to that attachment. But as an educator, I am concerned about the current trend towards technocentric learning. At the School by the Sea, learning takes place in real time, is activity based, and includes social interaction across a range of ages, exploration of spatial relationships, play, trial and error, and the mastery of new skills. Writing letters in the sand, counting the shells placed on a castle wall, looking at maps to explore new secret beaches. Sharing. Taking risks.
Time spent at the beach each weekend provides one of the best environments for children to learn new skills and discover new interests, and in some cases, for their fathers to take time out to play with their children. There are lessons in geography and mapping, nature and the environment, history and language. Physical dexterity, along with give and take, occurs naturally as the children experience more freedom to run amok together in a safe space. They climb trees and stay up late to feed possums, copy the call of the kookaburra or the wattle bird, play soccer on the sand at sunset, wait for the tide to go out to explore sand bars, dress up or get dirty.
The screens have finally been put away. Each child looks forward to their weekend visit, to meet up with their newly made beach friends. They are perennially hungry and no longer fussy eaters. I am one happy matriarch.