Sunday, 1 June 2014


Walney Island, a natural outdoor classroom...

It was great to be invited back to take another couple of after school sessions in creative writing, poetry and storytelling, with schoolchildren from Walney Schools. This time the children were a little younger – not much – aged 8-10. Their being a bit younger made them, I felt, just that more willing to let their imaginations fly, and to get what they chattered about onto paper! Mostly!

The highlight of the 3 hour session is exploring the beach at West Shore. Walney is a  barrier island, quite long and thin, made up of Ice-aged rocks, debris from the Ice Age, so the beaches are made up of rocks from all aprts of the Lakeland Fells. Collecting them, examining them, replacing them on the beach after discussing colour, shape, patters, what kind of rocks they are, is great fun. A fine way to learn in an outdoor classroom on the shore.

The first week the tide was out, so we explored rock pools. One girl found a baby eel in a very small, shallow pool close to the beach. Well, we thought it was a baby eel. We had been picking up and putting down (where we found them) mermaid’s purses – egg cases of Skate.

One boy asked to hold the young eel (elver, I told them) before I carried it closer to the Irish Sea, placing it in a deeper, larger pool, in the hope that when the tide came in the youngster (now named Bobby Eel) would stand a chance of surviving.

It was about eight inches long, sandy, speckled, camouflaged I suppose to look like grains of sand. It had a largish head compared to the slender tail end, also fins. I did wonder, then, if it was an eel…

Anyhow, I asked the group to stand still, listen, sniff the air, to tune in their senses then asked them what they could hear, smell, taste, see etc.


Back at the community centre we have refreshments, I should add that when the children get off the mini bus and come pouring in to the centre at 3.15pm they’re also fed and watered then, too! Fruit juice, fruit, ocasionally a kit kat.

We spent most of the time the first week exploring the beach, making up stories – giant golden crab whose lair is beneath Black Combe, Doctor Basking the evil doctor…

I did a bit of research between the two sessions and discovered that Bobby eel was actually a member of the Catshark family – E. had only rescued a baby shark! I printed off copies of the young shark from the internet, and also found that mermaid’s purses are also the egg cases of  sharks

I took the printed off pages in and asked what each one was going to write this week… they’d taken notes, jotting down ideas and thoughts the previous week.

One girl asked if she could write it as a journal. Good idea, I said, why not!? This was the girl who’d rescued the shark.

I showed them the photos and said ‘anyone recognise this?” “Bobby Eel!” came one answer! Try again I said, not Bobby Eel…

I then showed them the page which had the story of the baby shark and its egg case rescue that I’d printed off… wow!we rescued a SHARK!?

One girl who’d found a bone, read out an excellent tale she’d made up about how the bone was the missing toe of a dinosaur and to possess it was bad luck.

The shark-rescuer’s journal entry was great, ending with how she was an eco-hero! I thought that was fab.

We also wrote down adjectives (describing words) for what they'd found. I next asked them to tell me what they liked about beaches, some ideas:

All of the children produced stories, or poems, that reflected time and ideas spent outdoors, collecting ideas and shells, seaweed and memories. It’s a joy to be among such creative youngsters – eco heroes, all of them. Well done!

Geraldine Green 1st June 2014


  1. Aawww: brings back lovely memories of the fabulous year I spent working with 5 schools in Workington and Whitehaven back in 2009/10. I'd love to do another big project like that, if only I could find my missing Muse and locate a magical restorative :( xx

  2. Thanks Lynette, here's hoping your missing Muse and magical restorative comes your way! gx