GUEST BLOGGER NELL CROSS BECKERMAN
Growing up in Southern California with a biologist father and librarian mother, my childhood was seeped in STEM meets language arts. Relaxed weekend days were spent with my dad poking around tide pools and under piers at low tide finding nature’s secrets. Weekday afternoons with my mom included piling up my checkouts from our local library.
Fast-forward to having my own kids: after a morning of traditional summer fun with my two daughters on top of the Santa Monica Pier (think cotton candy, skee ball, and carousels), I remembered those days with my dad and invited them to explore under the pier with me, where the tide timing was right for our adventure.
And they explored!
Their joy made a huge impression on me and inspired my first picture book, Down Under the Pier. My goal: to invite kids to love nature by emphasizing the fun of it—and how exciting it is to discover a hidden world.
Just like my lived experience, in Down Under the Pier, the children spend a day enjoying the carnival rides and eating treats on top of a boardwalk pier, but after they run out of money, they take the reader to where the real magic lies—exploring the hidden world under the pier, at low tide, where all the animals of the intertidal zone are visible. And the best part? When you play and explore in nature, the fun is free.
Here are a few ways to incorporate Down Under the Pier in your classroom.
Nature’s secrets writing lesson
In Down Under the Pier the children explore a secret world.
Do your students know about a place that feels similar? For example, have they ever lifted a rotting log or explored under a lifted stone? Have they ever dug under the snow and seen what’s there? Is there a spot that few people know about, but they’ve taken the time to look and explore?
Describe this place. If they need a prompt, start with, “A secret place like under the pier that I like to go is…”
Tell your students to include how the secret place makes them feel, and sensory details like sounds, smells, temperature, textures.
See printable writing page with prompt included.
Other books to create text sets
Common Core Standards and NGSS alignments
- 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity – Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.2 – Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4 – Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
Nature’s secrets field guide writing activity
Down Under the Pier lists many interesting animals. Direct your students to research one of the animals listed. Write a non-fiction piece about the animal. Use the backmatter to help you!
- Acorn Barnacles
- Mole Crabs
- Sea Stars
Extension: Look at a sampling of field guides. What do your students notice about this kind of book? Create a field guide for Down Under the Pier. Or create a field guide for a microhabitat that you might be able to find in your area. (For example, a vernal pool, a pond, a forest, a swamp, a park).
See printable resource for making your own guidebook.
Sample field guides
Common Core Standards and NGSS Alignments:
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.2 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
- K-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes – Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
- K-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity – Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live.
I hope these lessons help your students embrace the excitement of summer and all the learning opportunities created by outdoor exploration. These lessons are from the Down Under the Pier Educator’s Guide, created by teacher Kari Allen. Please refer to it for even more classroom connections and Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, all of which is available for free on my website.
A portion of my author proceeds are donated to Heal the Bay, a non-profit devoted to education and conservancy of the Santa Monica Bay beach. Please visit them for more info and resources.
As a special bonus, I will give away one signed copy of Down Under the Pier. Join my mailing list between June 8-June 15 and I will randomly draw one winner.
Nell Cross Beckerman is a former TV documentary writer/producer/director and author of DOWN UNDER THE PIER (Cameron Kids 2020/illustrated by Rachell Sumpter), WHEN THE SKY GLOWS (Beach Lane Books Sept 13, 2022/illustrated by David Litchfield), and CAVES (Scholastic Oct 4, 2022/illustrated by Kalen Chock).Connect with her online on Twitter, Instagram, and her website.