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Take Care: Teaching our kids to protect and preserve the beach is a valuable lesson

Posted on Jul 01, 2018 in Protect the beaches , Teaching kids , July–August 2018

Teaching children to protect and preserve their environment ensures future generations can enjoy it as well. Photos courtesy Laura Holloway

When you first pull into Seaside after an eight-hour car trip (that included four straight hours of “Moana” on repeat, and seven bathroom breaks because your youngest just ‘couldn’t hold it’), your thoughts are already on just how quickly you can slap some sunscreen on the kids, pop the top on your favorite coastal brew and dip all 10 toes into the gulf. One of the farthest things from your mind is how you can use this trip to Seaside to teach your kids about protecting and preserving the beach. But the opportunities for these important lessons are easier than you think. And what better way to ensure the beautiful beaches here stay beautiful than to teach the next generation how to take care of them?

Leave Only Footprints (Unless Your Footprint is Large Enough for a Turtle to Fall In, in Which Case, Leave Nothing at All)

You’ve probably heard the phrase “leave only footprints,” which of course means not to litter up Mother Nature’s living room with empty cans, straw wrappers, food wrappers or whatever else trash accumulates during a day at the beach. But it also means to return the space to a natural state when you leave it, especially when it comes to holes. Digging a hole on the beach to bury your cousin Ralphie is all fun and games, but if you and Ralphie pack it up and head out without filling the hole, you’re creating a death trap for the sea turtles that make their nests on the beaches here. Nesting season is May 1 through October 31, so make it your business during this time (and all year long, actually) to show your kids how to keep the beaches safe for all creatures. And, if you’re out for a night adventure on the beach with your kids, make sure to use a turtle-safe flashlight, one with red light, and explain that this keeps the turtle hatchlings from becoming disoriented, which can cause them to never make it to the ocean.

Leave it: Sand dollars are better left in their beach habitat.

Wanted: Alive or Alive

Sand dollars, starfish, shells — each of these is a beautiful symbol of the beach and could be a nice desktop reminder of your warm, sunny vacation. But finding these creatures on the beach isn’t the same as seeing them in a store. Most of the time, if you see these in the water or on the sand, chances are greater that they are alive and well, or providing a home for something that is alive and well. The best thing you can do? If washed up on the shore, show your kids how to carefully scoop these sea symbols up and return them to the water. Or if you see them in the water, look and enjoy but don’t touch. Remember: the ocean isn’t our everyday home, but it is theirs. Just as the old story goes, a man was walking down the beach after a storm and noticed that thousands of starfish had washed up onto the sand. He saw an older gentleman walking along, scooping every few feet to pick up a starfish and toss it back into the sea. As the younger man passed the older man, he remarked, “There are so many. It doesn’t make any difference.” To which the older man replied, tossing a starfish back into the sea, “It mattered to that one.”

This beach is your beach, this beach is my beach, so let’s work together to make sure it stays as beautiful as it is today. And one step further? Let’s show our kids how to do the same, so maybe we’ll have a shot at keeping this crazy blue planet spinning just a little longer.