Exploring the Tide Pools of Tai O, Hong Kong
Exploring tide pools wasn’t even on my radar. To be completely honest, I just haven’t felt like exploring or even leaving the house lately. Between everything with moving and all the issues we’ve been working through, on top of being gone for 14 hours every day during the week… all I’ve really wanted to do is NOTHING.
However, “J” deserves more, and let’s be real, so do I.
The best way to get kids outside, is to go with them.
Don’t have a lot of time to read? Scroll to the bottom for the 5 discussion points!
Want to remember these tips for later?! Pin now!
The journey to the tide pools
So that’s what we did! As the evening cooled down “J” and I walked down the path of our quiet little village, waving to our sweet neighbors and listening to the endless calls of the varied birds in the wetlands next to our house.
And after some repeated redirects of “J”‘s curious wanderings we made it down the path to the rocky coastline. We didn’t go with the intention of finding tidal pools, but we were lucky enough to go during low tide and discovered the treasures in them.
Exploring the tide pools
Can you see all those seashells?! I learned that the long spirally ones aren’t technically hermit crabs, but Turritella Communis or sea-snail… 🤔
It was a pleasant surprise to meander across the rocks and look down and see the life glittering about beneath the glossy surface. When you’re so used to seeing trash piling up along the coastline you don’t expect much life left in the waters. Or for them to be so clear…
As we traipsed over the beach filled with shells from oysters to hermit crabs to sea snails and even some organic jelly blob like creature, that I could not take a good photo of and was too afraid to try to touch, it was clear there is life left to be had in these waters. It surprised and delighted me at the same time. It also explains the abundance of seashells washed up on the beach of various sizes.
Learning about the tide pools
This is a perfect activity for any age. However, the simplicity of exploring the range of textures, sounds, smells, and yes, even taste sometimes, is essential for toddlers as they discover the world around them. As he lifts round pebbles and larger barnacle covered rocks he’s unwittingly learning to compare and contrast, to categorize, and experiment with nature as his classroom.
He also starts to learn about empathy and caring for others as we gently pick up and put back the little hermit crabs we explore. He’s discovering that sometimes shells are not just something in the sand to play with, but instead homes for little animals and that one shouldn’t bang it on another rock or throw it. Instead we should gently place it back where and how we found it.
It’s important to model proper care of animals we’re exploring, to show how to properly look at them, touch them, and let them go, even from such a young age.
At the same time as he’s discovering the natural elements of tidal pools and discovering the little creatures that inhabit the area. He’s also learning more about himself. He’s learning what sounds, textures, and tastes he does and does not like. How to balance as he walks on uneven and even sharp surfaces. And how to catch himself when he does start to slip or lose his balance. As these are vital lessons for proper physical and mental development I don’t stop him, even when I myself may be a little scared for him. I’m instead supporting him emotionally and physically from a safe distance.
As the tide was out I didn’t have to worry about waves crashing at this distance. There were no big drop offs where we were. So this was a little easier to be fair, but in general I try to be a minimum of an arms reach away, unless he wants to interact with me. This is so that I’m not taking away from his personal discoveries or projecting my own personal sensory issues and fears on to him. It’s incredibly important to actually let your kids fall and not to “save them” all the time. It’s through these falls that they discover what their bodies are capable of and how to move so they don’t fall, it builds the trust they need in their bodies to accomplish bigger things later.
Though I get it, I freak out internally too, I try to keep it internalized.
Future Learning Opportunities
For our first outing this was enough, just to experience these little creatures in their own mini biome. If “J” was older than this would have been a perfect opportunity for many lessons. A lesson, not in the school room sense with worksheets and essays, but instead in natural learning sense.
Below are 5 questions to further explore the tide pools experience you and your child(ren) have together. These questions are great as a supplement to traditional education or for homeschooling or unschooling families. The age and abilities of your child will determine how in-depth you go with each one and even how many you get to. I encourage you to not push for a “right answer”, but instead to encourage a journey of discovery.
It’s ok if you don’t know the answer yourself. These questions are geared to not having a right or wrong answer because life isn’t filled with standardized tests. Instead it’s filled with opinions that you learn how to support with research and experiences.
5 Discussion Points To Encourage Deeper Learning of Tidal Pools in Hong Kong… and Elsewhere…
What do you think life is like for the plants and animals in a tide pool?
I suggest asking this twice. Ask this when you first begin exploring tide pools and then again once they’ve delved a little deeper into the topic and had some time to observe the pools. By asking it at the beginning you can see where there preconceptions are. What areas you need to guide them in more than others. And what they already know so you don’t need to cover it again, saving time for deeper discussion. Then when you ask later you can see how much they’ve really learned while still seeing if there is any other areas you need to encourage them in. I also like this question because it encourages empathy and makes a child think beyond themselves and into what life may be like for someone, or something, else.
Why do the animals stay in the tide pools? Why don’t they go back out with the tide?
Oh the “Why” questions lol. I know if you have a young child it seems as if all they do is ask why?! So this may be something they come up with all on their own anyway and that’s fantastic! But just in case they don’t, do ask them this question. It will make a child think about the pros and cons to life in the tide pool as well in the bigger ocean and have to develop an opinion and reasons to support that opinion. This will obviously look different depending on the age of the child and if the child is being traditionally schooled or not. So keep your expectations realistic as to the actual response. BUT this is good practice for preschoolers and high schoolers alike!
How do the animals and plants survive in a tide pool?
This question is a great one to bring up while observing the pools. They can compare and contrast the different animals they see, discuss the dangers they observe, and make conclusions based on those observations.
How is the trash affecting the tide pools?
I don’t know about everywhere in the world, but I do know that this past year I was on two beaches in Florida, one on the Atlantic side and one on the Gulf of Mexico side, and on multiple beaches in Hong Kong, and all of them have had some level of plastic pollution. The ones in Hong Kong have been known to have everything from plastic bottles, to medicine vials, to washed up oil drums. So needless to say this is an important and prevalent topic. Again, something to help kids develop empathy for living beings beyond themselves and seeing cause and effect.
What could we do to help the plants and animals that live in the tide pools?
This is an open-ended question that really encourages kids to become problem solvers. I teach a unit in my art class about how artists solve problems and you can see anything from boycott posters, art to bring awareness, or even inventions to help solve the problem. This question is perfect to help bring the mind out of facts and problems and into the creative critical thinking opportunities. You can use this as a connection to social studies, math, art, engineering, writing, and more. Or you could leave this as just a discussion point if your child isn’t showing interest. Sometimes not pushing is better than pushing, but only you can see which is best.
If exploring tide pools has captured the hearts of your little learner then don’t let the learning just stop with a discussion, encourage some active exploration. Who knows if an idea your child comes up with could be the start of a real life application to fixing our seas! And even if it’s not you’ve created a problem solver, a creative thinker, a lifelong learner.
So what tide pools have you explored? Did you ask yourself any of these questions? What other discussions or explorations did you have? What is your favorite part of exploring with your child? Leave the answers in the comments below!
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