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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

July 2000

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to

Click here for a complete listing of Links for Learners

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion—Scriptures; prayer; shared reflection
    • History—World War II battle site
    • Social Sciences—the ocean; the environment
Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

  • Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
  • Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners.


Spiritual life






Divine presence

The Beach Teaches Us So Much

As our authors say, the beach can teach us about God.Appreciating the lessons of the beach requires reflection on our part.Whether as families or discussion groups, we need to reflect, to listen for God's presence, to look for his footprint in the sand.

After reading this month's article, jot down a few thoughts on what you already know or feel about the beach's ability to enhance your understanding of God. If you're not a beachgoer, or don't live anywhere near an ocean beach, substitute an element of nature you are familiar with, such as a lake, a river, the forest, a flower garden, perhaps a snow-covered mountain trail. Nature's ability to teach us about God is certainly not limited to the beach.

Individually, or as a group or family, visit the beach.Open your eyes and hearts to what lies before you; listen for the whispers of God's presence; smell the rich aromas of ocean and shore.As parents, encourage your children to write down several experiences while they are fresh in their minds and hearts. On a longer trip, some young people and adults may enjoy keeping a journal. Let the children experience and then talk about their sensory experiences at the beach: walking barefoot in the wet sand; fingering shells, pebbles and driftwood; looking for sea glass (broken pieces of glass tumbled smooth in the surf); hearing the pulse of the surf; smelling the ocean on a foggy evening; feeling the wind on their faces.

If you're fortunate enough to spend an extended time at the shore, use the changes in weather conditions to teach your children about references to the sea in the gospels. Observe the beach on a windy or stormy day. Read Matthew 14: 22-33, the story of Jesus walking on water. Jesus' first followers were fishermen who made their living on the water. Imagine a small boat struggling on a wind-driven, angry sea. Picture the amazement of the disciples when Jesus came toward their boat walking across the stormy waves. And experience Peter's initial courage in asking to do the same, only to sink when he moved from trust to fear. Jesus' ability to calm the stormy sea is a sign of God's power over all of nature.

The storm on the lake in Matthew 8: 22-27 is another story of Jesus' power over the wind and the sea. Take photos of the beach and its different weather conditions to aid your memory after the trip is over. Little children might want to put together a scrapbook or treasure box with photos, souvenirs, mementos.

When your trip is finished, assemble as a family or group to talk about your experiences. Review the article again. Talk about how your experiences may have matched, or been different from, those of the author. You can use a recording of nature sounds as background to help bring the experiences back. Such audio and video recordings can often be found at your local public library.

For younger children, listening to a parent read a bedtime book set by the sea can bring back the good memories. See The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor, by Joanna Cole, as one example.

Share some of your collected mementos with your group. In school settings, your experiences and souvenirs may become the foundation for shared classroom prayer or even support a retreat day. Whether as an individual or a group, the physical and visual memories of the beach can be incorporated into your prayer life. Simply holding a shell or stone may help you recall God's presence in meditation. Keeping a souvenir of the beach in your car can introduce an element of peace into an otherwise troublesome commute to work or school. A beach shell on your desk may help get you through a difficult work day. Hanging a favorite beach picture near the kitchen table may inspire a family prayer, especially when everyone is tired and tense.

For students, the beach trip might trigger an interest in learning more about the sea. Robert Ballard, the underwater explorer who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, has written a number of books on his life's work, notably Finding the Titanic and The Discovery of the Titanic. Older teens and adults may enjoy his own story, The Eternal Darkness: A Personal History of Deep-Sea Exploration.

Learning more about our ocean environment can be fun for young people. Perusing navigational charts of the area in which you recreate can inform about the presence of shipwrecks and underwater obstacles, changes in water depth, lighthouses and landmarks, and boating/shipping channels. Charts done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cover United States coastal waters and the Great Lakes. The NOAA offers additional information on satellite imagery, oceans and weather, and tide tables.

A Different Experience of the Beach

For some, the beach may be the start of a whole new life. Witness the hundreds who have fled Cuba in boats and makeshift rafts for a fresh start in America. A Florida beach is indeed a treasured goal. Their well-documented stories can be found by searching CNN or the Miami Herald.

For the survivors of D-Day, June 4, 1944, the beaches of Normandy, France, will no doubt bring haunted memories of terror, pain, lost friends. For the people of France, Operation Overlord marked the beginning of their liberation from Nazi occupation. The drama of that invasion was captured in the film, Saving Private Ryan. In fact, Normandy was the largest of scores of beach invasions conducted in World War II by the Allied Forces on the European and Pacific fronts.

The awesome power of the sea has often cast ships up on the beaches and rocky shores, usually with tragic consequences for their crews and passengers. Other ships have disappeared at sea without a chance of reaching shore. See Willard Bascom's Waves and Beaches, Doubleday, New York, 1980, for stories of lost ships, tide and wave facts, and ocean statistics. The United States Coast Guard, renowned for its sea rescues, teaches boating safety at hundreds of locations to help pleasure boaters avoid similar disasters.

Further Reading Resources

The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1961

Gift From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Pantheon Books, New York, 1955

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications
People magazine
The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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