The BeachI can’t believe August is here. Where did the summer go? Soon everyone will be shopping for school supplies, shoes, clothes and uniforms. We’re all trying to squeeze in as much vacation time with the kids as we can. For many, those last vacation days are spent at the beach. To me, summer isn’t summer without as many visits to the beach as I can afford (in money and time).

There was a time when going “down the shore” (as we call it here in Philadelphia) meant following certain traditions and rituals. First, I’d arm myself with the tools of the trade: a stylish beach bag containing a towel, sun tan lotion, a novel, and a radio. Then I would find the flattest beach with the fewest shells–avoiding that stinky, smelly line of seaweed washed up on the beach from the night before. I never swam in water deeper than four feet–for fear of sharks. And I rarely put my feet on the ground when I was in four feet of water–for fear of stepping on some unknown creature. And I avoided those pesky, noisy seagulls.

These days, my stylish beach bag has been replaced with a backpack. Sunscreen took the place of tanning lotion years ago. Field guides are my “novels” of choice. I never take a radio to the beach–I’d much rather listen to the sounds of the waves and the birds. I inspect the strandline (that line of flotsam and jetsam washed up from the night before) for treasures like egg cases. I appreciate the stinky, smelly wetlands I drive through to reach the ocean for what they are–incredible food farms. I know now that there’s no such bird as a “sea gull” (it’s a generic term for many birds within the gull family). And I know that “jellyfish” and “starfish” are now called “sea jellies” and “sea stars.” And “beach bunny” has a new meaning, too.

My beach walks have become nature walks!

The last days of summer have new meaning, too. They are the last days that I’ll see butterflies, dragonflies, and wildflowers. They are the days that grow shorter and cooler far too quickly. And while it’s sad to say goodbye to the fun in the sun, soon the skies will be full of migrating birds. That’s the beauty of nature–to every season there is a tern, or a hawk, or an eagle.

For fun activities and seashore facts, check out Take A Beach Walk!

See you in the outdoors!

Jane Kirkland is the award-winning author of the “Take A Walk®” series of nature discovery books as well as “No Student Left Indoors: Creating a Field Guide to Your Schoolyard,” the acclaimed educator’s guide to helping students discover nature in their schoolyard. To learn more about Jane and her books visit:

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Published: July 30, 2008