Build sandcastles with a difference! In this beach activity, students work in teams to build sand sculptures of iconic marine creatures, learning about the names and functions of the animal’s body parts as they complete their masterpieces. Students will also learn about the impact of human activity on this local Perth beach and discuss any marine debris or interesting specimens they find washed up on the beach.

Duration: 1 hour

The role of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is to conserve, develop sustainably and manage the shared use of the State’s aquatic resources and ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations. To do this, DPIRD scientists must understand Western Australia’s coastal ecosystems and the species that inhabit this area.  

This activity takes place at Hillarys Beach, just north of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development office at Hillarys. The activity begins with a discussion about the beach you are visiting – if it is within a marine park, a dog beach, what it is adjacent to, and any other points of interest. We will also discuss some of the flotsam and jetsam washed up on the beach within the immediate vicinity.

Students will then be placed in small groups and allocated a creature card – e.g., bony fish, shark, octopus. Working within their group, students will be required to build an anatomically correct sand sculpture of their allocated marine creature. On the reverse side of their creature card groups will find some fun facts about their organism. The Community Education Officer facilitating your activity will discuss the information with each group so that they can then teach their fellow classmates about their animal.

Upon completion of sand sculpture building, students will gather as a class where each group will present their creation and a short presentation of what they have learnt about their animal.

Through the completion of this activity, students will:

  • Learn about the anatomy and biology, as well as a few interesting facts, of Western Australia’s most iconic marine species.
  • Increase their awareness of the organisms that the Department manages to ensure the sustainable use of Western Australia’s aquatic resources and environments.
  • Increase their awareness of the variety plant, animal, and algae species as well as the marine debris washed up on West Coast beaches.
  • Identify possible sources of marine debris and understand the importance of removing all rubbish from the beach.

Note: Due to the proximity to water this activity includes, ensure you confirm with your school principal as to whether they deem it to be a water-based activity. At no point during the activity will the students be permitted to enter the water. It is the responsibility of the school to ensure that adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff accompany the excursion should it be deemed a water-based activity.

Cost: $5.00 per student

Pre-excursion and post-excursion resources:

Please be sure to review safe beach exploration practices with your students prior to your excursion.

Some post-excursion activities you may want to lead in your classroom to build on the concepts students explore in this activity include:

  • Conduct some further research on the creatures that the students sculpted. Ask students to give a short presentation or create a poster to deliver their information.
  • Conduct a beach walk with your class or ask students to bring beach washed specimens into the classroom. See if students can classify items based on similar characteristics. Use the Beachcombers Field Guide to assist you with identifying your specimens. (Note: Please ensure all specimens are returned to the beach following this activity.)
  • Explore the impact of marine debris on the marine environment. You may wish to use the Presentation: Harmful marine debris and/or the Fact Sheet: Marine debris.
  • Design your own underwater organism. Plan your design and list its features – How does it move? How does it eat? Where does it live? What sort of body covering does it have? Can you classify any of the creatures together based on their characteristics?
  • Play a class game in the Lesson: Ocean Bingo!
  • Use the Poster: A Balancing Act to discuss the various groups of people that use the marine environment, the impact they may have and how they are managed.