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7 Ways to add Science to your Beach vacation

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Summer is here! And many of us will be heading to the beach for vacation!

There are loads of things to do while you are at the beach, like getting a tan, swimming, and learning about science!

What? You mean learning science wasn't something that crossed your mind when you thought about heading to the beach?

Well, today I am here to help you with seven ideas for adding a bit of science to your beach vacation!

7 Ways to add Science to your beach vacation

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For the most part, all you will need to bring is a bucket, a shovel, a smartphone, a thermometer, and a measuring tape to do each and every one of these activities.

Let's get started...

#1 - Engineer a sand castle.

There's a whole lot of physics and a bit of chemistry involved in make a truly great sand castle. You have to balance the turrets and decorations perfectly. You have to make sure that subsequent levels of your design don't crush the first levels.

All this is done through trial and error, which is exactly the skills your budding scientist needs to have.

And just in case you are wondering scientists say that the perfect water to sand ratio for sand castle building is 1 bucket of water to 50 buckets of sand!

#2 - Measure the tides. 

All day long the tides are either coming in or going out.  These tides are partially responsible for the waves that wash up on the shore. As you set up for the day, measure the distance between one of your chairs and the point at which the water is reaching at that moment.

Repeat this process every time you reapply some sunscreen (about every 90 minutes) and write your results down in Google Sheets or Apple Pages. At the end of the day, you will have a small picture of how the tide changes throughout your day.

Just remember to keep your umbrella in the same spot all day long so that your measurements will be accurate!

#3 - Examine sand up close.

Sand is pretty amazing stuff! At the beach, it's basically very tiny particles of rock and shells that have been worn down by water.

You can stick your face super close to the sand to observe it, but then you will look very strange. So instead, I recommend using your smartphone to take a picture or carrying a palm-sized microscope along for the task.

If you visit a lot of beaches, take a small sample to compare at home. Just be sure to check that this is legal as many beaches restrict the removal of sand in any amounts!

#4 - Learn about marine invertebrates.

As you watch the waves recede, you will often see tiny clams or sand fleas quickly dig their way down into the sand. There are also jellyfish floating in the water that often washes up on the shore.

All these marine invertebrates are fascinating to examine up close. You can observe them on the shore, or place a bit of sand and ocean water in a bucket. Then, catch a few to observe up close.

Just make sure that you don't leave them in the bucket too long as they will die from heat or lack of oxygen.

#5 - See if an object will sink or float.

The sink/float experiment is a classic one that can be done with just about any materials in almost every environment. 

Begin by taking a walk down the beach to collect objects to test. Then, fill a bucket with water from the ocean and drop the objects in to see if they sink or float - super easy!

If you want to get really technically fill one bucket with salt water and one with tap water to see if there is a difference between the two! 

#6 - Test for salt in the water. 

We all know that there is salt in the water, but it's super fun to actually see the salt!

Add a bit of water to the bottom of a darkly-colored bucket or drip some sea water onto the back of a darkly-colored boogie board. Then, set the bucket (or board) out in the sun and wait.

Once the water evaporates, you should see a crust of salt crystals that have been left behind. If you have a palm-sized microscope on hand, you can take a moment to examine these up-close. 

#7 - Study shorebirds.

Seagulls tend to be the most recognizable shore birds, but there are loads of feathered friends to enjoy at the beach. There are sandpipers, oystercatchers, pelicans, cormorants, and more!

You can check out a shorebird identification guide before going or download a bird identification app. (Birdzilla has one just for shorebirds.) As you spot some birds, take a moment to observe their behavior and study their characteristics. 

If there is time, snap a picture with your smartphone so that you can create a nature journal page for the shore birds you find later on!

Wrapping it Up

I hope you will have a fantastic time at the beach this summer as you soak up the rays, enjoy the waves, and learn some science!

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  • Paige Hudson
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