Closing the Nature Gap through Beachcombing

By Claire Ferguson

atlantic city youth beach program

Lyntaga Smith, artist and entrepreneur, has been a creative force since childhood—where being deemed “artsy” by friends and family was not a norm in her community. About 15 years ago, she was introduced to the world of beachcombing by a friend in pottery class. 

“One day he invited me to come to his house to meet his wife and see their sea glass collection and the kitchen back splash they had transformed using some of their treasures. That was the day I feel in love with sea glass,” she says. She has fully embraced the hobby as an artistic outlet and form of meditation ever since. Having that place to feel grounded, happy, and at peace was something she wished she could have had even earlier in life.

outdoor program for urban youth

Looking around the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, she didn’t see any other Black sea glassers or beachcombers in her community enjoying what she loved, and thought about why that was. The U.S. has a long history of excluding communities of color from the outdoors—ramifications of which are still felt today known as the “nature gap”—a lack of diversity among outdoor recreational spaces. Activities like sea glassing and beachcombing are not often introduced to Black communities, or shared generationally. “We didn’t know about it, what it was, that it was a hobby people actually do, and that there is a whole community of people out there doing it,” Lyntaga says.

introducing beachcombing to poc and urban youth

Knowing the joy and happiness beachcombing had brought to her, she wanted to give the youth in her community the opportunity to experience the benefits of connecting with nature in a way they might not have known about. So, she started AC Kids Who Beachcomb, a program that combines her love of sea glassing and jewelry-making with her passion for yoga and meditation.

young urban and poc beachchomber program

For four weeks, local kids go beachcombing, practice yoga, do journaling, meditate, and talk about the importance of coming together as a community and giving back. At the end of the program, they create an art piece at the Ventnor Cultural Arts Center to take home, which they make from the treasures they have found, supplemented with some of Lyntaga’s sea glass collection.

meditation yoga beachcombing for urban youth

Grants from the Atlantic City Community Fund and the Children’s Cultural Arts Foundation, sponsorship from the Leadership Studio of Atlantic City, and donations from Thread Worldwide have enabled her to hire other creatives to collaborate with: a yoga teacher, an artist, and a local photographer to document the experience. They’re working on picture books for the kids to take home and share with friends and family, hopefully getting more people in the community interested in sea glassing and beachcombing and expanding the program.

beachcomber youth program creating art

The kids and parents loved the program. “It was fun and very calming, and I loved getting sea glass,” said Anisa. “As a parent it was amazing to have a new outlet for my daughter’s mind to expand and learn what her hometown has to offer and all the beautiful things the community is surrounded by,” said one of the moms. And another added, “I love that the kids had the opportunity to try something new and fun. Beachcombing is a great mindfulness activity, and I learned a lot about sea glass that I hadn’t known before.”

Lyntaga has been inspiring others with her posts on Instagram @seameglow. “People I had introduced to sea glass and beachcombing—always talking about sea glass and showing how much joy, happiness, and peace it brings me—would tag me in stories with #seamegloweffect,” says Lyntaga. “They said that I had inspired them to collect and be on the hunt for sea glass.”

Eventually, Lyntaga wants to form a non-profit with programs for seniors and families, focusing on mindfulness through beachcombing in urban communities. She has a vision of other communities outside of Atlantic City accessing peace and relaxation the way she has, through the hobby of beachcombing or simply by connecting with the surrounding environment—a place to go within, sit on the beach, close your eyes and listen to the ocean waves rolling in and out.

For more information on programming and how to donate to  AC Kids Who Beachcomb, find Lyntaga on Instagram @seameglow and @ackidswhobeachcomb.

Learn more about Lyntaga's beachcombing collection and art ›

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2022 issue.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published