Friday 02 Dec 2016

Beach School
AJ Robinson

Now, there’s an oxymoron if you ever heard one, "Beach School." Who would expect the beach, a place of sun and fun, not connected with that most-dreaded of all places of torment for children, school! Well, for me, there was a time and place when attending school at the beach was not such a horrible thing.

Some summers back, more than I care to admit, I happened on an interesting sight at State Beach, on Martha’s Vineyard. There were rows and rows of children sitting before a sort of sand “blackboard”; several young adults stood around them. The “seats” were just sand piled up, in rows, with trenches in front of each row for the kids to put their feet. The “board” was a big pile of sand sculpted into a wide flat surface at an angle.

I was intrigued, despite not knowing, at the time, what that word meant.

Drawing closer, I heard a “lesson” taught by the woman standing at the “blackboard.” She was telling the kids about some of the shellfish that lived in the Vineyard Sound. It interested me so much. I sat down to listen.

The teacher would “draw” on the “board,” with her fingers, and sometimes some of the other adults would jump in to help with a certain aspects of the lesson. One would become a crab, lobster or some other creature of the sea; they’d act out a fun little scene about life under the sea. When she was done, the next adult stepped up and “erased” the “board”; he ran his hand over it to wipe the sand clean.

The adults gave lessons, sang songs and taught the kids about protecting the environment. These days, we'd call these teachers “Green.” I eventually found out that they were a group of young people trying to educate kids about the natural world, and do it in a fun way. They came to the beach every day, “set up” the “classroom,” and invited all kids to joi

Althougj I didn’t go to State Beach every day, I went often enough that I was able to attend quite a few classes, and they were always fun. I learned about starfish; what they ate and how they could re-grow a limb. I learned how much of the Earth’s surface was covered by water, and how the oceans helped to regulate the winds and the weather, and even the temperature.

I was actually disappointed when the teachers didn’t return the next summer. Now, all these years later, I sometimes wonder what became of them? Did they stay in education; did they work to protect the environment, or did they sell out and become common business people? Somehow, I doubt it was the latter; they all seemed far too passionate about their work to give it up, ever.

I think that’s the greatest lesson I learned from them: follow your passion and you’ll never truly work a day in your life.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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