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Activity Description/Rationale

Beaches are a common recreational destination, and are abundant in our area.  Beaches are a unique ecosystem, and conditions here are harsh.  Species who live here must have special adaptations.

In this lesson, we learn about the abiotic conditions of the beach, how beaches are formed, and the adaptations of several organisms that inhabit this location.  We also reflect on how human activities and beach organisms interact.

Estimated Time of Activity:

One 90 minute period

Goals: Process Skills, Content Knowledge, Attitudes: Students will…

  • describe the formation, ecological conditions, and human impacts on beach ecosystems


  • computer plus projector
  • beach powerpoint
  • optional: sand from various locations, seashells from beach
  • images of beach organisms


Students list on chart paper the results of the previous assignment: all beach organisms in one column, rocky shore organisms in the second, and salt marsh organisms in the third.

Save these chart papers for following weeks’ use.

Activity Instructions:

  1. Examine with class the lists of organisms from each environment.  Ask which list is longest and shortest.  Ask what the organisms at each ecosystem might have in common.  Ask if there are any organisms that exist in more than one ecosystem.
  2. Begin discussing the beach environment by asking the students how it feels when they go to the beach in the summer, and what they bring when they go to the beach.  You may elicit many responses such as it feels hot, sunny, sandy, windy, or salty.  Try to elicit that students usually bring drinks and umbrellas or sunblock, because it is dry there and there is little shade.
  3. Next have students brainstorm to describe the types of adaptations that an organism might need to live on the beach.  Have them think about life processes: what would they eat? Where woul they rest? Etc…
  4. Transition into the powerpoint, which begins with common beach organisms and their adaptations to life on the beach.
  5. Next the conditions on a beach and formation of a beach are described in the powerpoint.
  6. The questions at the end are questions students should be prepared to answer on the quiz in 3 weeks.
  7. Discuss assignment.


Investigate one plant and one animal that lives exclusively on local sandy beaches.  Create a one page species profile for each (format provided) using four or more sources. 



Instructor’s Notes:


Return to ARM Description.