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Nature play: Observing sea animals

pink bubble snail

Meaningful interactions with their natural environment are important for children’s development. While outdoor play helps children develop their gross and fine motor skills, concentration and creativity, there are also many opportunities for them to learn about flora and fauna. Here are four examples from our popular social media series how you can support children’s outdoor learning opportunities.


The pink bubble snail above was spotted by a little scientist at Port Kembla, NSW. This rare find is beautiful like a sea jewel with its translucent edges and beautiful pink shell. These snails have a roundish, bubble-like thin shell. It’s hard to find unbroken shells on the beach as they break pretty easily. They are so thin that the shell is not much protection. The snails can even get too big for their shells and grow around them!

You and the children may wonder if the bright colours make the small creature vulnerable – or do they also bring some advantages?

This question could lead to a conversation about camouflage versus revealing oneself. Why do some animals hide? And others not? Well, bubble snails mostly come out at night. They can burrow in the sand during the day for protection. Apparently, they taste pretty disgusting as well. Although we don’t suggest eating them to find out!



Have you ever been able to spot dolphins off the coast? Not just with dolphins but with all animals you can observe in nature, questions about communication may arise: How do animals communicate? How much of our communication is through body language? How do dolphins communicate under water?

Our very quiet investigation into sound gives you an understanding of dolphin communication.


Starfish – not a fish
Cuttlefish – not a fish
Jellyfish – not a fish

Seahorse – fish

Starfish are also more appropriately referred to as sea stars and are related to sand dollars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. We think this one is pretty special. We found it on the beach in a lovely little rockpool. Note the number of legs. The ‘classic’ sea star has five legs, but they can have up to 40. And the ‘legs’ well they are pretty amazing. If a sea star loses its legs, they can, in some cases, grow back. 


If you have a rockpool nearby, the children may spot some sea stars themselves. Check in a rockpool near you, draw pictures of you own sea stars, model them out of clay or even out of sand in the sand pit or at the beach. Have a conversation with the children about what makes a fish. Is it the fins? The gills? The backbone? Can you move like a sea star? How many legs would you have ?



Can you spot it? A wonderful rock pool find from Sydney’s south coast. Rock pools are a great opportunity to teach children patience, observational skills and gentle movements so as not to scare! An octopus is also a great chance to teach all things oct: Octagons have eight sides, an octopus has eight legs. And did you know that October used to be the eighth month of the year in the Roman calendar until they added two extra months!

As you can see, the STEM topics are all connected in nature. An investigation into camouflage may lead you to inspect colours while counting legs may lead to noticing the significance of numbers for animals and plants. You just never know which new learning opportunity the children will stumble upon when they explore nature.

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

This passionate mathematician and former science teacher will inspire you with her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her determination to provide high-quality hands-on and fun professional development.

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