Backyard Biology

Nature stories from my backyard and beyond

Nature Activities

The Beachcombers Game

July 7, 2011

One of my favorite summer activities is beachcombing. I love to walk along the high-tide line looking for sea treasures. The treasures I am searching for are bits and pieces of marine animals and plants that have died, been tumbled around in the waves, broken into pieces, washed up on shore and got left behind as the tide recedes. This high-tide line of dried up seaweed and animal parts is called the wrack line.

Any one who has spent much time beachcombing soon becomes familiar with these sea creatures. Although we may never see them alive in their natural habitat, we soon learn to recognize the star fish, crabs, clams and a host of others. With a little study, we might even be able to tell a soft-shelled clam from a hard-shelled clam, or a green crab from a blue crab. Once learned, these animals become friends that we easily recognize and look for in our beachcombing romps.

As we all know, we don’t need to see a whole person to recognize him or her. Just seeing our friend from the back, or viewing only a part of the face or even the way they carry themselves is often enough for recognition. Do we know our sea creature friends as well? Do we need to see the whole animal to recognize the crab and sea star? Or do we only need to see a piece to know who they are? And if so, how small of a piece? Here is a Beachcombing Game to see how familiar we are with our seashore friends.

The Beachcombing Game is to be played by two or more people. One person sets up the game and the other person or group of people try to guess what animal or plant they are looking at.


  • Collect as many different types of seashore treasures as you can find along the wrack line.


  1. Bury the seashore treasures in the sand - leaving only a small piece exposed to sight.

  2. Have the group try to identify the exposed pieces.

  3. For any of the treasures that the group coundn’t guess, brush away some of the sand, exposing a little more of them and have the group guess again.

  4. Keep exposing the pieces until they have all been identified.

Alternate Instrutions

  1. Instead of burying the seashore treasures in the sand, you can break them into pieces of varying sizes - some very smalll and some much larger.

  2. Separate the pieces by size.

    Show the smallest pieces to the group and have them try to identify them.

  3. Show them the next largest size pieces and have them try identifying them again.

  4. Keep showing the group larger pieces until they have all been identified.

    wrackline animals


In the ocean, as elsewhere, animals and plants are adapted to live in certain environments. For instance, an exposed rocky coast will be home to animals that can cling tight to the rocks while those living on a sandy beach must be able to burrow in the sand. Therefore you will find a different assemblage of animals and plants living in different types of beaches. This diversity will be represented in the seashore treasures you find along the wrack line.


  • Collect as many different types of seashore treasures as you can find along the wrack line of one beach.
  • Collect as many different types of seashore treasures as you can find along the wrack line of a different type of beach. Keep these separate from the first collection.
  • Do this for all the different types of beaches in your neighborhood.


  1. Play the Beachcombing Game as above, using the seashore treasures from one beach.

  2. After the group has finished guessing the identity of the seashore treasures, have them try to guess which local beach they came from.

  3. Repeat this process with the collections from the other beaches.