Pre- and post-walk activities
For all groups, it is interesting to make sun prints (many craft stores will sell special sun print paper or you can create your own from blue print paper as described on sites such as diynetwork.com; see below for some print suggestions). This can be used as an exercise to discuss the effects of the sun on pigments. It is a good way to discuss the effects of the sun on humans and to discuss how pigments in human skin work. The EPA has a good site to introduce children to the sun and some of its effects. Be sure to take a portfolio, mailing tube or other carrier for the finished sun prints.
Before you go out, you might also want to take the students on a virtual tour. This can give you the opportunity to discuss with students the types of organisms that they might see as well as to show them the major habitats that you will explore. EPA has some good examples, though not for Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has brochures on different habitats that can enhance your preparations with your class. Younger students might enjoy playing critter card games like “go fish” to learn about different organisms. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has examples that you can use and the resource shows how you can make your own cards. Most of the genera can be found on our coast though the species differ. Using these cards or creating your own to mix and match can be useful in teaching about the organisms and habitats before a field trip. As a cultural exercise, you can also include information in Spanish, French and other languages. Students can also make their own cards after the trip to fill in information that they learned. This will help students to remember key concepts about the organisms and the areas visited. It is very simple to laminate cards using self-lamination sheets if you school does not have lamination service through its library or other resources.
You can describe the bay and the intertidal areas in simple terms with items familiar to students. Depending on the length of time that you have and the age of the students, you can conduct some simple experiments with inexpensive materials to illustrate local currents. Before you begin, talk to students about how scientists explore their environments. If age appropriate, review the scientific method. Talk about the importance of longshore currents in shaping habitats for organisms. Ask students to make an hypothesis about the direction of the longshore current locally. For 9-12 graders, this might be an excellent time to show them navigation charts and aerial photos. Sometimes, tackle shops or marinas will give you old charts. Aerial photos of an area can be obtained at your local land appraiser office. Often, for educators, you can get one or a few copies of an aerial free. To discuss how the sand is moved along the shore, you can take a couple of beach float toys to illustrate your points. Be sure to tie a string to the toys so that you can retrieve them without getting too wet. Toss a toy near shore and ask the students to watch how the toy moves in 10 minutes; have one student stand where the toy was tossed in and one stand where the toy is at the end of 10 minutes. Ask the students to measure the distance and if appropriate for the age group, ask them to calculate the speed of movement. Now toss the toy so that it is farther from shore. Ask the student to predict what will happen to the toy (will it come in to shore, will it parallel shore or will it be taken out to sea). This is a good time to talk to the students about longshore currents and how these same currents that they see moving the toys will also move sand.
A simple diagram of the intertidal can be found here. If you have a digital camera, you might take some photos of major organisms or features of the environment for students to use later. Students should also be encouraged to make their own sketches of these. Sometimes students are shy about their art skills, so you may have to remind them that sketches are for reference, not artistic renditions. You will want to have students collect sediment samples while in the field. Plastic sandwich containers or baggies can be used. Make sure the students label their samples with location.
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