To celebrate World Oceans Day. Outdoor mums are thrilled to be joined by Maggie. This incredible trailblazer started the first Beach school in Northern Ireland and is incredibly passionate about connecting families with the outdoors. We are thrilled to chat with her and find out more about beach schools
So what do you do?
I'm Maggie, mum of two lively young boys and qualified geography teacher for 20 years. In 2017 while living in England I discovered the joys of 'forest school' with my young son. I always loved nature and outdoor learning and took the opportunity to complete my Level 3 Beach school training in 2017. On return to Northern Ireland I set up 'Beach Schools NI' in 2018. I work with schools and families to help them 'explore the shore'.
What led to a career in nature and have you always been interested in the natural world?
I grew up on a farm so outdoor play and engaging with nature was a huge part of my childhood. I loved country life and learning about the environment around us. I studied Geography at University followed by my PGCE to begin a career as a Geography teacher. The coastline has always been my 'go to place' for a stress release . Watching the power of the sea and marvelling at the amazing marine world hidden from sight within its depths is simply awe inspiring.
What is your favourite thing about your role and environment?
The best part of leading Beach school is the sheer joy on children's faces as they discover something new and the look of pride as they waddle home with pockets loaded with sand, shells, seaweed and pebbles. I love that every day on the beach brings something new and unexpected, I never stop learning.
What are the challenges you face in a nature based career?
Working in nature means you need to be prepared for anything and flexible with every session. The unpredictability of the weather is definitely a factor that can change plans at the last minute but even on the drizzliest of days there is huge benefit in getting outdoors.
What are your outdoor essentials?
Every trip to the beach requires a bucket, spade, net, litter picker and ID reference book for a quick check on new finds. Then cast your eyes down and walk slowly, you will be amazed at what you see when you stop to look.
Do you have a favourite place in nature?
Obviously the beach is my favourite environment and in N. Ireland we are spoilt for choice for beautiful beaches to pick from. Sitting on the sand dunes sheltered from the wind, watching the sea waves crash in on a stormy day pondering the beauty of creation is definitely a favourite.
Do you have any advice for young people who may be considering a career in outdoor learning?
I would say do it! If you have a passion for being outdoors and an interest in the natural environment then pursue a course of study that will help you gain more knowledge and understanding. Learning outdoors offers such a richness to children's education and I believe we need so much more of it within our school systems. The benefits for child development are so clear to see and I believe it is needed more than ever in our current culture.
How can families get involved?
Watch out for summer family sessions on our website www.beachschoolsni.com or contact me at email@example.com to be added to our mailing list for future events. Schools can also get in touch to bring classes to their local shoreline and take learning out of the classroom.
What is the most educational beach in Northern Ireland you have visited?
That is not an easy one to answer as they are all so different and special. If pushed I would probably say White Rocks beach at Portrush. As a Geography teacher it offers so many amazing landforms and features. There are caves to explore, arches and stacks to walk beneath and amazing rock formations to touch and feel. The mix of rock types from limestone, flint and basalt creates a diverse range of colour and texture. You may even spot some fossils too. It's also great for surfing and swimming too.