The seas had been rough overnight, and 30 minutes into a brisk walk on the sand, my eyes were open to the living things that were awash on the shore. As I walked up and down the shoreline of Surf Beach I became more and more acutely aware that I was not alone. With each leg of the beach I found myself discovering more and more treasure. Some of these treasures were alive and breathing, and some of them were inanimate. I could not help but to cast my mind back to a recent Workshop I had presented at, hosted by the Australian Museum on Biodiversity, Citizen Science and AI. Andrew Robinson's contribution came to mind- QuestaGame.
I could not help myself but to take photographs of what I was seeing. I made a point of it, not to touch any of the things I took photos of with my smartphone. The sequence of how I presented the living things was not the sequence that I recorded my thoughts in the children's book- there I tried to be deliberate in following patterns of consonant sounds and repetition in syllables etc.
"At the Beach" is a book meant for my three beautiful children, who continuously open my eyes up to the world 'children see'. I take my kids to the beach a few times a week, but especially on the weekends. We have spent days outside exploring rock platforms and fish and different types of sand! My dear parents would do likewise when I was little. The best memories when I was growing up is when my family went fishing by the sea, playing at the park (by the sea), and swimming for hours on end (in the sea).
"At the Beach" is also a gift to my close younger academic collaborators who are either expecting as I write these words, or whom have just had children in the last few months or years. Motherhood (and Fatherhood) are simply incredible experiences, forever changing us and challenging us. I hope your kids enjoy this part of Australia and I hope one day I can show you these creatures up close for REAL when you next visit Down Under.
My intent in the way I have framed the book and the activities is:
- to help children picture read if they are in Kindergarten or younger (5 or under)
- to help children in Years 1 and 2 develop their reading skills and reception
- to teach kids the difference between living and non-living things
- to teach kids about the difference between natural and human-made things
- to teach children the importance of biodiversity in our Earth
- to entice children to ask their parents or older siblings to take them on a beach adventure
- to expose children to the powers of observation
- to trigger questions about Creation
- and mostly to get children to imagine things they may have never seen before.
I wrote the book on the same day I took the photographs, while both my youngest children were engaged in their swimming lessons. It took about 30 minutes as I reflected through what I had captured in still shot.
I posted the story and photos to the Web in this free format as a proof of concept-- my kids were the first to "read out aloud" the contents of the book. Eldest child said: "ha, ha, ha mum- it's okay", middle child asked me to add the sound of the seagulls in (which I did because I agreed that something was missing from the latter section), and the younger child sat on my lap and read the words out as I typed...