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Climate change – The DfE needs to help protect oceans

I implore the government to look at ways of supporting teachers to deliver marine elements across the curriculum in the future…

Nicola Bridge
by Nicola Bridge
Year 6 science worksheet
DOWNLOAD A FREE RESOURCE! Year 6 science – Animals including humans assessment worksheet with answers

When I was around four years old, I remember spending a family holiday on the beach in Devon. We spent days exploring the plethora of life that lives within the rockpools and I was fascinated with the diversity of life that we found there.

There are photographs of me bobbing around in the water that I don’t even remember being taken. From that first memory, I knew that there was something special about the ocean, and I now know this to be certain.

Making up 90% of the living space on this planet and providing half of the oxygen we breathe, each and every day, we quite literally need the ocean to survive. It shapes the features of the earth and makes it liveable – and it connects every single one of us, wherever in the world we are.

In the UK and many other countries across the world, young people can go through their entire school lives without learning about topics relating to the ocean.

In the UK, which is a maritime nation and a global leader in marine science, ocean-related teaching should be an essential part of the core curriculum offering – especially in a time where we are experiencing a climate change crisis that is having a worrying impact.

In our modern world, there is a lack of understanding about the ways in which the ocean supports all life on earth and how vital it is for our future survival on this planet – and that is something that I believe needs to change, fast.

School children are the next generation, and will depend on the ocean to survive as much as we do today – so why are we, as a nation, yet to see the importance of educating them about it?

By helping them to better understand their connection to the ocean, and their influence on it, as well as its influence on them, we can empower them to take steps that will help to safeguard their own futures. And who wouldn’t want to be given that opportunity while there is still time to take action?

Creating an ocean-literate nation will ensure that the younger generation can choose to live their lives in ways that will help to secure their futures – and our planet’s, too – and we can do that by exposing them to ocean concepts from an early age in schools.

Children who are ocean-literate are more likely to adopt pro-ocean behaviours, making small adjustments within their own lives to minimise their environmental impact – ultimately, ensuring a healthier ocean for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

There are a wealth of other benefits of embedding the marine environment into the curriculum, too; from the wide field of marine-related careers it will open up, to the inspiration and sense of creativity that students will gain from engaging with the awe of ocean habitats and animals.

A connection to the ocean has also been shown to positively influence an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing.

At the Ocean Conservation Trust, we believe that the addition of ocean elements to the national curriculum at the next reform is of the utmost importance, and would implore you, the DfE, and other statutory bodies to look at ways of supporting teachers to deliver marine elements across the curriculum in the future.

There are so many ways that the beauty, geography, history and science of the ocean can inspire and engage students at all levels and across all curriculum subjects, and there are a wide variety of resources available to teachers online and by interacting with organisations such as the Ocean Conservation Trust.

A UK-based teacher survey showed that there is huge willingness from teachers to help children learn about the ocean, and many coastal schools ensure that they interpret the curriculum to ensure that their students get to learn about it.

However, we are all connected to the ocean, however far we live from it, so there is much work to be done to ensure that it becomes a topic taught in all schools across the country – and that no child finishes their school career without being ocean literate.

Nicola Bridge is head of conservation education and communication at Ocean Conservation Trust.

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