Why Ocean Literacy
We created these courses to target the existing knowledge gap surrounding people's understanding of our intimate relationship with the ocean - which is one of the biggest challenges we face in ocean education and public engagement in conservation. The public typically perceives the ocean as what they can see from shore, and if they are not near the coastline then it is even farther from their minds. As David Attenborough expressed: "No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced."
So how do we form this connection between people and the ocean in order to evoke the changes that we need to see for a healthy ocean future? Addressing issues such as biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, the destruction of marine environments and ocean acidification require us to change our lifestyles and transform the way we think, and ultimately how we value the ocean. Being ocean literate means deeply understanding how the ocean influences us and the dangerous influence we have over the ocean.
Scientists, educators, government and government organizations in the United States worked for about ten years to produce the Ocean Literacy Framework. This framework breaks down ocean literacy into seven key principles – to identify all of the areas that we should grasp to have that well-rounded and multidisciplinary understanding of the ocean, its processes and how it affects us on a social, economic and cultural level.
The earth has one big ocean with many features
The ocean and life in the ocean shapes the features on earth
The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate
The ocean makes earth habitable
The ocean supports a great diversity of life
Humans and the ocean are inextricably interconnected
The ocean is largely unexplored.
Through Ocean Literacy, we can create a global curriculum. As it spreads around the world, there is an increasing need for these kinds of educational tools. The more teachers are required to encourage global citizenship in their classrooms, the more they will be in need of these kinds of resources. This Ocean Literacy Toolkit is not a one-size-fits-all, but a supportive and adaptive resource that can be used for different geographical and cultural contexts. Through teaching Ocean Literacy, students develop the skills that they need to succeed as individuals, all through an ocean lens. It enables us as educators, learners, teachers, and students to understand the ocean, develop our own personal connection with it, and create future change through these principles.
The courses are designed with a number of uses in mind. Firstly, students can take the course via self-directed learning. Each course is broken up into the seven Ocean Literacy Principles and the content and supporting media tailored for the three age brackets. This way we are including students who are self-disciplined, those who are already interested in the ocean and want to learn more, as well as those outside of the traditional classroom setting such as home learners or distance learners.
The second way we envision this course to be used is directly by educators or teachers. The resource library contains the background content for all three levels of the course, as well as the activities list and additional resources. This way, teachers have the support that they need to become comfortable with the material – they will have everything they need to know – and can take these resources into their classrooms to engage the students.
Virtual learning is a powerful way for all of us, as education leaders around the world, to engage and connect with a wider audience and connect those youth to each other as well. By creating these courses, both students and teachers have the resources they need to create action in their homes, in their classrooms, and to take this new knowledge out into the community.
Our goal with the ocean literacy courses is to engage youth all around Canada and internationally by developing their understanding of how the ocean works, so that they will be excited by the ocean and motivated to contribute to conservation in their own ways. We hope to create an online interactive community where students can engage with each other, share and stimulate ideas and create ocean literate youth.
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