Beach classrooms, citizen science and sea swimming

Beach classrooms

Learn to Sea is an award-winning marine education facility in South Devon, run by the marine biologist Maya Plass, which uses the coast as an educational resource. Her approach allows children the chance to use the South Hams coastline to learn while also having fun. Through engaging rock pool sessions, beach activities, and play, schoolchildren are taught curriculum-focused subjects and marine conservation at South Milton Sand’s ‘sea school’. Schools on the coast can make the most of ‘outdoor’ classrooms, such as local beaches, and develop lessons on the coastal and marine environment, and economy.

Coastal and marine ‘citizen science’

‘Citizen Science’ initiatives, such as CoCoast and Seasearch (volunteering underwater), are about members of the public contributing to scientific knowledge and discovery by collecting data, or by analysing and interpreting findings. It is a fun way to bring local people together and it can help encourage future scientists. CoCoast represents a unique collaboration between a wide range of organisations who believe members of the public should be empowered to contribute in meaningful ways, sharing their skills and enthusiasm, rather than just observing scientists. They have Training Hubs at 7 university, research and conservation organisations around the UK. A number of other organisations bring expertise on science, policy and volunteer-experience to the project. Seasearch is a project for volunteer sports divers who have an interest in what they’re seeing under water, want to learn more and want to help protect the marine environment around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. The main aim is to map out the various types of sea bed found in the near-shore zone around the whole of the Britain and Ireland.

Sea swimming to treat mental health – and have fun

Open-water swimming has significant benefits for both mental and physical health. The Outdoor Swimming Society, established in 2006, is a UK initiative led by individuals who wanted to provide a space within which people could share the joy and adventure of swimming outdoors. ‘When so many people get together, jump in the water, and experience that exhilaration all at once – it’s electric!’ (Maureen, who started open water swimming when she was at an all-time low in her life). Health bodies can also support and help deliver health benefits from the coast and seas, through open water swimming programmes, like the one led by Brighton Recovery College, working with people with mental health problems. “As a group of passionate sea swimmers, this was something we wanted to share with those who might otherwise struggle to find the confidence to give it a go.  Brighton has a heritage of visitors coming and ‘taking the waters’ and so it seemed the ideal place to pilot a modern day equivalent.  Although we got quite a few surprised reactions when we suggested taking people with mental health problems swimming in the sea there were enough others who shared our passion and could see the value in what we were trying to do.  With the support of Saltwater Events, an open water swim coaching company, we able to develop and safely deliver a sea swimming course at the Brighton Recovery College” Hannah Denton, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Photo: Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust