I live about 1 mile from the Atlantic ocean, so it is very easy for me to have a large variety of items in a nature or science center. We collect shells, sea glass, seed pods, pine cones, sea grapes, etc… They love to use the magnifying glasses and microscope to look at this stuff!
We use the shells, broken or whole-on a variety of craft projects. Frames, magnets, etc… You can rub a shell on cement for awhile and it will rub a hole into the shell, thus allowing you to string it with other shells and beads for a cool ocean necklace. I am constantly looking for new and different things to add to my science center, even if I can only have it in there for the day! Today, a co-worker and I were at the beach and found several interesting things!! Some form of sea sponge and a bunch of teeny little shells hooked onto a piece of bark and shell. They opened up and these little hair like critters would come in and out. We don’t know what they are yet!!! Going to take them (in salt water) to the Nature Center up the road and find out!!! I hope we can keep them alive for awhile and enjoy them in our classes!!!
I set up my Book Center with child size lawn chairs and a clamp on umbrella. They loved pretending they were at the beach!! I got the chairs at Wal-mart for $4.88 and the umbrella was $5.96.
I also got some plastic buckets and shovels and put things in them, like: the round container of wet wipes, crayons in the art center, etc…
I also set up a new center and put some cheap, plastic, blow up arm floaties, several pair of goggles and the round swim/float rings- as well as a tiny blow up pool with magnetic sea creatures and small dollar store fishing poles. They loved pretending they were swimming and fishing!! They also looked hilarious going around with the silly goggles on!!!
I also got a cheap plastic pool and set up an indoor sandbox. I put in a mill, shovels, molds, etc…and 2 folding canvas chairs with the short legs that you use at the beach. I do not have a sand/water table as a permanent part of my classroom, so this made for a nice and new sensory center!!! I had to sweep up sand everyday, but it was worth it because the kids loved it so, so much!!!
For my oceans theme, I used colorful cut-outs of all types of sea creatures. I glued them onto blue cellophane rectangles that I cut to fit my window panes! The windows looked just like aquariums and the blue paper cut down on the sun! It was beautiful!
With a shower curtain from a dept. store (Walmart), cut the bottom of the ocean/sea picture and tack it around the water/sand table. Put the remainder of the curtain with fish and water life on a curtain rod and hang it on the wall above the table– you don’t have a shower curtain, you now have a sea/ocean world. Mine is so cute, I can’t wait to place it in the new classroom. I use the shelf under the table hidden by the curtain for storing the water/sand toys when not in use.