Shoreham Beach education programme expands

Goose barnacles attached to a plastic bottle
Goose barnacles attached to a plastic bottle

SOME ‘dynamic additions’ have expanded the education programme on Shoreham Beach.

Courses are run at the Local Nature Reserve, as well as venues across Sussex.

Several new sessions have been added to this year’s marine education programme, giving people the chance to explore the rare shingle habitat, examine objects washed up on the beach, discover how Shoreham Beach was formed and dip into the tide pools.

Education co-ordinator Stephen Savage said: “The plant kingdom is just as fascinating as the animal kingdom. Plants just work on a different time frame, so we miss much of what is going on.

“To support the plant section of the primary science curriculum, we have developed a module that can be undertaken on Shoreham Beach and continued back in the school’s own grounds.”

Shoreham Beach was made a nature reserve in 2006, in recognition of its local and international rare vegetated shingle habitat.

It demonstrates some amazing adaptations that allow plants to survive the harsh desert-like conditions, where there is no standing water or soil.

Mr Savage said: “These plants also have to cope with the drying effects of sun and wind, as well as the damaging effects of sea spray. But even with these unusual adaptations, like most flowering plants, they ultimately rely on bees and other pollinators.”

Vegetated shingle also supports a wide range of insects and birds, which pupils can investigate during a visit and then repeat the activity in the schools grounds.

Mr Savage explained: “We are keen that a school visit to Shoreham Beach is not an isolated experience but a means of experiencing nature first hand and continuing this practical exploration back at school.

“Visiting schools can also explore the fascinating world between the tides at the eastern end of the beach, or we can support a school visiting its own local beach.”

For schools who find the transport costs too high, the new education programme includes sessions entitled Bringing the Seashore into the Classroom, which demonstrates live animals using a computer-linked microscope and projector.

Mr Savage said this technology made it possible to run living-lecture style sessions, allowing the children to experience the fascinating rock pool animals and learn through activities based on their first-hand observations.

“Children are amazed to see these live moving creatures magnified to a metre or more in size on a screen,” he said.

Children will also be able to explore the seashore to examine objects washed ashore that provide clues about life off the coast. This may include shark and ray egg cases, crab shells, or even goose barnacles that may have travelled many miles attached to a plastic bottle.

On Shoreham Beach, even the pebbles have a story to tell, beginning back in the cretaceous period, when dinosaurs still roamed the planet.

Mr Savage said: “There are different types of rock pebbles that form Shoreham Beach which can be explored as part of the science curriculum but we have also worked with geography students exploring the dynamic natural forces that shape our coastline.”

Sessions run for secondary schools focus on Shoreham Beach as a nature reserve and the problems of balancing public access to the habitat with the need to preserve it.

This session can also include participation in surveys that will not only increase the students’ knowledge and understanding but will also contribute towards the management and preservation of the site.

For more information about the Shoreham Beach education programme, visit Friends of Shoreham Beach or email the education co-ordinator at