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This site celebrates the west coast marine environment and promotes ocean literacy in Canada.

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Blue Week Celebrations, Lisbon, Portugal June 2015 – Part One Blue School Tour

At the beginning of June this year, after Pearson College students left for home, I took a brief hiatus from Race Rocks Ecological Reserve for a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. I am very grateful to the EU Horizon 2020 AORAC Project for the support and logistical know-how in making this trip such a stimulating and jam-packed learning quest. From a personal perspective, the trip was intended to further develop my understanding of European ocean literacy efforts, improve my skills as a champion for ocean literacy and help contribute a Canadian perspective on transatlantic ocean literacy. I participated in five ocean literacy activities in Lisbon and I would like to share some of what I learned here, via my blog.

Prior to the trip, I had been blogging on the racerocks.com website daily, for several months, so I thought it would be easy to whip off a blog covering the five activities that I was involved with in Lisbon. After all it was only five days worth of blogging.

  1. Visit to a Portuguese Blue School
  2. Meeting of the International Advisory Group to the Horizon 2020, Blue Growth, Sea Change Project
  3. Workshop on Transatlantic Ocean Literacy (TOL)
  4. Public Forum on Ocean Literacy at Blue Week Business Forum
  5. Day trip and launch of the small vessel West (Educational Passages) with the Portuguese Navy, Ciencia Viva and two middle school classes.

When it came time to write the blog, the task seemed daunting and it took some time to reflect on and attempt to share what I had learned. Part of the time delay was due to being very involved organizing Canada’s First Conference on Ocean Literacy, working at Race Rocks and attending other ocean literacy workshops and events. By August, I realized that it might be better to break up the Portuguese experiences and write separate pieces, so here the first instalment.


Visit to a Portuguese Blue School

Portugal is a leader in ocean literacy. It adopted the Ocean Literacy principles years ago, adapted the ocean literacy conceptual framework to fit Portuguese perspectives and has moved beyond science, to include geography, culture and other subjects into a particular Portuguese brand of ocean literacy. Portugal also has designated Blue Schools and I was lucky enough to be part of a small international group that was privileged to have a tour of one these schools.

The tour participants came from the United Kingdom, Sweden/Belgium, Portugal, United States and Canada and are all involved in the Sea Change project, which I will focus on in the next blog instalment. Blue Schools are of real interest to the Sea Change project, which hopes to empower and transform the relationship between EU citizens and the sea. The project is considering a Blue School model as an initiative that could empower long-term educational change potential.

The school that we were going to tour, Colégio Pedro Arrupe offers programs from pre-school right through high school to 1750 students with a staff of 140 teachers. It is a private school located near the shore, on the outskirts of Lisbon. About thirty percent of the schools in Portugal are private and this school is one of two, private, “Blue Schools” in Portugal: the other is located in the city of Porto.

Developed and run by lay professionals, the school was designed from the outset to be a Blue School. The school building and the philosophy are reflective of the ocean, which is at the heart of the Portuguese people and of the educational thinking of its namesake, Pedro Arrupe. Arrupe was a Jesuit educator who spent much of his adult life in Japan. The ocean is incorporated into the building’s design from the foundation up and includes large expanses of glass block, representing the ocean and water and massive amounts of cork, embodying Portugal, including Portuguese travel by sea. Driving by, you might not notice at first glance, that this school has a really special treatment of the ocean or understand how important the ocean is to the learning that goes on inside and beyond its walls. It was a highlight for our group to be able see inside and to get a sense of the school firsthand from those who know it best.

We arrived in the parking lot by taxi, after a bit of a cobblestone, taxi version of the grand prix from downtown Lisbon. The glare of the Mediterranean sun dominated as we looked around for the entry. As our eyes adjusted to the cool, shaded and lofty entranceway to this modern school, the first thing I noticed was a large and low aquarium stretching along one wall. Low enough so that the youngest students can enjoy it and beautifully maintained in keeping with the school Director’s goal “to inspire students to fall in love with the sea”.

We wondered what it was all about as we gazed up at artwork that extolled Arrupe’s motivational, educational philosophy and took in the seemingly, serene school scene around us. Then we met the gracious and articulate, (English-speaking) Pedagogical Director of the School, Ana Mira Vaz. A school is a reflection of its leadership and there was no doubt from the moment we met Ana that this school had an exceptional leader. She welcomed us and took us under her wing for a tour that focused first on the younger classes, followed by a high school student and teacher-centric, round-table meeting in the boardroom. We had a chance to learn directly from teachers and students in action, to see student work and to learn about the school’s project-based learning, professional development and institutional collaborations. We left with a better understanding of how this particular Blue School incorporates the sea into the hearts and minds of its students.

The following quotations come from the report on the tour schedule given to us prior to the visit. “The sea and maritime issues have been major references in the educational project of Colégio Pedro Arrupe, which explicitly includes the multiple dimensions of the sea – biological, physical, geological, economical, historical and geographical – in its curricula. Learning about the sea is mostly experiential and based on creative teamwork. Activities take place in real or simulated environments, inside and outside the classroom, using the school equipment (swimming pool, water surfaces and leisure boats) and taking advantage of the local context – Parque das Naçoes’ marina and Nautical Club. Contact with the marine environment extends to collaboration with the Sea Cadets Club, a project of the Portuguese Navy supported by the Navy Museum and out to the sea on board the Vera Cruz caravel and NTM Creoula.

The work of Colégio Pedro Arrupe has been acknowledged by policy makers in the field of sea curricula and ocean literacy. Colégio Pedro Arrupe has been supported by the Task Group for the Extension of the Continental Shelf and by the Sea Kit, and is now participating in the EU Maritime Action Plan.” This is obviously a blue school with many shades of blue both nationally and internationally. We were delighted to head off on our tour.

The preschool rooms were bright, busy and productive spaces located in a separate section of the school. One of the first primary classes we visited was playing a structured predator prey game as an arithmetic learning tool. As we came into the class the students were engaged, and enjoying the game. The Director asked the teacher to continue so that we could observe and the children relished sharing their lesson and their learning with us, some even impressing us with their ability to do math in English as well as Portuguese.

As we moved through the hallway there was a mass exodus happening from a couple of other classes due to a frog sighting in the green area outside. The classes had serendipitously headed out on an amphibian expedition. The group washed out of the building like a wave carried by the sheer enthusiasm of the students and obvious passion of the teachers. I hoped the frog had taken cover, off the playground in the sanctuary of the cool green area, away from strong sun and little feet. Whether they found the frog or not, I understood the thrill of sharing such a sighting and the spontaneous learning connections that could be made between aquatic creatures, caring people, healthy wetlands, estuaries and the open sea.

While they were outside, we had the chance to see their classrooms, results of class projects and individual portfolios. I was impressed with the specifically ocean-oriented learning going on at this school through an interdisciplinary mix of visual arts, language arts, science, geography, history and culture. The real highlight for me was to sit down with students and staff and hear from them personally in a presentation and debate on sea curriculum initiatives..

The boardroom was a comfortable area with lots of room for the ten of us. The three boys at the table were all in their senior year and thinking about next steps for college and university. Two of them had been at the school since their early years and the third had joined later. It was an opportunity for them to reflect back on key experiences that they wanted to share with us. The teacher at the table had taught both primary and elementary. I was really impressed by the genuine, respectful and open relationships between the students, teacher and director. We all introduced ourselves and the Director emphasized how project-based learning is such an important aspect of the experience at this school. Then the students told us about “Sea Week at end of second term before Easter, when everyone has a project”.

Projects are student-driven and facilitated by staff. Pedro explained to us how they view the sea as “opportunities for careers”. He went on to tell us about a trip he made to the touristic town of Paniche where he and classmates went to a college with marine courses and shadowed older students. “ We did algae experiments with them.” He explained that there are Portuguese companies developing and selling algal products to places like Japan, so the experience was practical as well as fun.

“We went to the beach with a researcher from the college. He showed us how many different species of plants and animals there are on the rocks in Portugal. It was great to see this new level of detail that is important and we were curious about some of the species like the sea cucumber.”

“We had a conference with a man who’s company moved sharks to ocean areas. He made lots of money; we could tell from his car. He couldn’t get a job with his marine biology degree so he went to Australia and developed his shark skills there.” The boys thought that this was “a good example of entrepreneurship and doing what you want”.

Another student told us about a race they organized last year for grown-ups and students, called the ‘Race of the Sea’. “This small marathon went well and it stuck, so this year it ran for a second time. We defined the marathon course, gathered funds for an institution that helps people in need, (raised awareness about the importance of the sea) and it went well and so we did it again this year.” The Director added that the older students often work with the younger students. “The two boys who were here from the beginning have had a lot of impact because if they did a project and it was successful it continued, if it wasn’t it was dropped.”

The third student told us about a trip he made last year with nine other students and a teacher. They were on a mission to Seville, Spain for a week on the ship Creoula where the ten students and teacher worked with the naval officers. They had to wake up at 4AM and work, and then do various learning activities. They learned about discoveries from the 15th century, “when Spain & Portugal made a treaty on how to divide up the world”. They were also involved in the Universidad Itinerant Maritime (Travelling University of the Sea). They talked about those experiences and how “they felt like ambassadors from Portugal”.

The elementary teacher spoke to us about the little one’s early experiences with the pool/water and projects (portfolios). She told us how her older elementary class won the Kit do Mare contest by doing a project on traditional black and white Portuguese pavement. They produced an artwork piece on that subject, created with ink made from spices that had travelled by sea from afar. She noted many natural associations with the sea. “This year we did a project on American monsters and slept at the aquarium one night, near the sharks.”

The touring party was impressed by the large graphic showing the seven principles of ocean literacy (in Portuguese of course), at the beginning of our school tour. It was equally notable to hear about the school’s approach to adopting the ocean literacy framework. The Director explained that ocean literacy principles and conceptual curriculum design are very useful but not used prescriptively. She emphasized that their school’s approach is to try to make learning opportunities that incorporate the sea into all subjects and at the secondary level, particularly into the sciences like biology. While there are no specific marine science courses offered, the learning experience is “completely different from the public system where just the basics are covered”. “What comes to mind when I think of the school are the projects which are often related to the sea.” Each project also produces a video as a legacy that is shared and archived.

The Director also emphasized the importance of institutional relationships, between directors of blue schools in Europe for example and between their school and Portuguese institutions. This is important for professional development in particular. She explained that they had just spent two years working on improving evaluation and feedback in partnership with a university’s education department, that was involved as “critical friends”. They would meet together, design, observe teachers and analyse. They also developed strengths in collaborative learning and peer-to-peer learning this way. Students also have input to what happens in the school, they meet in committee once a month and report to the director. The school also delivers training to teachers with special needs students who are integrated into their classes. Additionally they have guest lectures and case studies on special topics. Most importantly, they get together and go to the beach. All in all the school provides “about 50 hours of professional development per year”.

Many of the challenges and opportunities here are the same as other schools even though this is obviously a monetarily privileged school and student body. Project-based learning, peer to peer and collaborative learning, community service learning, mentoring of younger students by older students, field-based and experiential learning are all pedagogical tools used by many diverse schools. Beyond monetary considerations, the big difference between this school and others is the intentional inclusion, valuation and honouring of the sea in all aspects of learning at Colégio Pedro Arrupe. It is certainly much more than ocean science literacy that they are achieving and it might well be the intertwining of culture and the sea that is at the heart of this school’s success as a Blue School. Additionally, by building memories for life there is greater potential to keep the sea in mind and feeling, beyond the school years. That heritage might just change the way these citizens will understand their relationship and interdependency with the ocean as adults.

This tour piqued my curiosity about Blue Schools. My son attended a Blue School in Canada and I always wondered whether the learning activities that those students undertook coloured their perspectives as adults. A follow-up study on Canadian Blue Schools might be informative. Perhaps a longitudinal evaluation of Colégio Pedro Arrupe graduates, might also improve our tangible understanding of the potential impact of this Blue School. Do graduates have a more profound understanding of the role the seas and oceans can play in a healthy planet? Do they understand how people can make a difference to a healthy ocean? Does the graduates’ understanding, change their behaviour in relation to the sea? These are difficult questions and relate to objectives of the Sea Change Project, to be explored my next ‘Lisbon’ blog.

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CaNOE Quest in Vancouver Harbour.

The skipper’s call was clear “Paddles down. Left side, pull forward, right – push back.” The big canoe pulled out, turning as it went, and it gained momentum making ripples in the sparkling water, as the second singsong call rang out. “Pull together now, follow the bow paddler. Forward. Pull together.”

Participants at Canada’s first conference on ocean literacy had the chance to paddle in a big canoe traditional style canoe named after Chief Dan George June 18th in Vancouver and it was a unique experience. The paddling quests were led by Takaya Tours of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and the purpose was multifold. First, these were ceremonial canoe trips, to celebrate the launch of the Canadian Network for Ocean Education – CaNOE, the new, small non-profit with big plans to advance ocean literacy in Canada. Second and equally importantly, these were paddles to honour First People’s presence, voices and history in this place. The trips also provided a rare chance to learn experientially, a little about traditional knowledge and culture in a busy, modern harbour which had not really been influenced by colonization, until about 150 years ago.

CaNOE members gathered in the little park just south of Canada Place. Their first daunting task was to get the 14 person canoe off the trailer, across the lawn and down to the beach. By the time we reached the beach, we were definitely working as a team and that bond would be handy later on. The Takaya Tour leaders were professional and skilled at handling the canoe and they were articulate and passionate about their culture and traditions. As it turned out, the skipper Dennis Thomas is also a skilled diplomat and his crew and lead paddler, Cease Wyss is moreover a wonderful storyteller and singer.

Before we left the beach, Dennis and Cease briefed us in detail on canoe safety, paddling details and traditional protocols. We learned that the artfully decorated fronts of the paddle-blades depicted a stylized wolf, specific to Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. Like flags on ships, the paddle designs identify nationality and sometimes a specific village or family line. On the back of each paddle a single, stylized, painted Salish eye, represented the ancestors. In the old days, in times of war, the paddles were reversed, with eyes pointing forward and wolves facing back, for anonymity on approach.

Before we launched, a prayer song reverberated across the bay and heads turned throughout Crab Park, towards the melodious refrain cutting through and above the cacophony of one of Canada’s busiest ports. We loaded carefully and took our seats. We were ready to go, holding our paddles with eyes facing backwards, holding the new knowledge that the ancestors ‘had our backs’ during this adventure.

Commands were spoken and the big canoe slipped out into the bay, paddlers pulling in time with the leaders (not bad for a newly formed team). Our skipper Dennis, whose traditional name is “Whonoak”, outlined the sail plan and reiterated some of the key safety points as we pulled out past the Harbour Police docks, skirting the north edge of the container terminal. He had already stated that we were to steer clear of the Sea Bus route, stay close to shore and inside the bay. As we neared the outer edge of our route, Cease Wyss turned in her seat to face the rest of the paddlers and after telling us her traditional name, “T’uy’t’tant”, she introduced her family connections and started her first story.

We drifted while she spoke, slowly swaying, paddles steady, listening to a story involving the original man and woman and a cliff dive into very deep water, long, long ago. The North Shore Mountains stood like sentinels, bearing witness to the scene. A cormorant flew by low, giving us the eye in passing and a seal popped up nearby and seemed to be listening to the storytelling voice. The Sea Bus passed well outside of us, packed with people heading downtown and the canoe bobbed gently in its wake giving rhythm to the ancient lore.

An incoming tugboat broke the spell. It rushed in towards us and the story was interrupted so we could pull well out of its way. The story started again as we rocked through its big wake, and again we were transported back to a time when people and animals could transform.

The next thing we knew, a large Harbour Police vessel was bearing down on us, at what appeared from canoe level, to be ramming speed. Maybe they were trying to give us a scare? At what seemed like the last minute, they turned smoothly and deftly came along side, to demand an explanation of what we were doing out on the water and to ask if we knew there were Sea Bus lanes. The mate asked our skipper if he had permission from the Harbour Authority to be there. Many in the canoe, grumbled under their breath about the officious captain, his mate and their unnecessarily assertive approach to this canoe that was out of the way of traffic. “Whonoak” who was in charge, took a different approach and handled the situation with confidence while, cooperating and maintaining a totally gracious and friendly bearing. By the time the police left they too were smiling and laughing and it looked like they felt really good about things.

“T’uy’t’tant” finished her story and regaled us with another song as we completed circling the bay in the big canoe. We glided in gently, almost as if we knew what we were doing and just kissed the beach with the bow, to unload in preparation for the second trip.

Dennis, the skipper, discretely contacted the Harbour Authority on his cell phone while we were swapping crews and doing a mini-media event, so we were ‘officially’ sanctioned for the second trip. So the second paddle in the canoe was a much calmer affair and hubbub of the downtown space seemed to melt away as the paddles rose and fell in unison. Again the stories and songs welled up in clear contrast to the scene at hand and accentuated a different, much older and possibly wiser perception of this harbour; now home to over a million people. My thoughts and feelings as we paddled, went beyond nostalgia for the past; I could sense an engrained connectedness by these two young entrepreneurs traceable through their family relations, with a great sense of potential for the future.

As the canoe, Chief Dan George glided through the water, the resilience of the Coast Salish people, shone through the ripples and reflections of distorted skyscrapers. The positive and respectful energy of our leaders helped propel the boat and revealed largesse of spirit. This CaNOE Quest, a field trip for marine educators and scientists who want to share understanding of the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean was more than just a paddle around the bay in downtown Vancouver. It was a quintessentially west coast experience and a very special way to view Vancouver, its past and its future. I was glad that First Peoples’ voices were part of the first CaNOE conference and thank Takaya Tours for making it happen. I hope that in shaping ocean literacy in Canada, more First Peoples’ voices are included and continue to inspire with such clarity.

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CaNOE to Brussels

A blog about the Tripartite, Galway Implementation Meeting, in Brussels, February 23, 2015

It is really one big ocean, all connected.

Japanese glass ball on beach near Bamfield, BC, Canada.

Far from Brussels, waves roll in from the open Pacific, pounding the shore and filling the warm air with fresh scents that mingle with the green smell of cedar. The winter tide strands flotsam including timbers from a Japanese temple, on the beach and eagles soar aloft, as I sit at the base of a sea stack, reflecting on a recent trip to Brussels. I finish a Belgian chocolate, fortified for writing and begin my blog about the February Galway Implementation meeting and what it could mean for ocean literacy in Canada. I start by making sure that readers know what ocean literacy means and give a little background information for context.

In broad strokes, ocean literacy refers to understanding the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean.

Expanding on that, the seven essential principles of ocean science are spelled out below.

The dedicated group of Americans, who coined the phrase, and defined the principles, had thirty marine scientists onboard for the process. Then they went on to collaborate with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educators, to build a K – 12 conceptual frame-work linked to US, Next Generation, National Science Standards and STEM curriculum everywhere.

Portugal embraced the principles of ocean literacy almost a decade ago through its own process with Ciência Viva. Now Portugal is ahead of everyone, in adopting and adapting the conceptual science framework, embedding ocean literacy into the school system, moving beyond science and into history, geography, arts and culture and the national consciousness. Canada, the US and the EU are following suit in their own ways, as signatories to the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.

Ocean Literacy is more than just a bullet point in the Galway Statement, which starts with this acknowledgement:

“Recognizing the importance of the Atlantic Ocean to our citizens, human health, prosperity and well being, adaptation to climate, other environmental change and security, …”

An additional quote from the Galway Statement, sums up the resolve to include societal understanding and valuation of the ocean.We further intend to promote our citizens understanding of the value of the Atlantic by promoting ocean literacy. We intend to show how results of ocean science and observation address pressing issues facing our citizens, the environment and the world and to foster public understanding of the value of the Atlantic Ocean.”

The impetus from the EU to reach this agreement can be found in their Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic area and a similar commitment from high levels, including heads of state, is clear.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is leading the Galway Canadian Marine Working Group which is focused on five areas of tripartite cooperation:

  1. Ocean Health and Stressors
  2. Ocean Observation and Prediction
  3. Information Management and Dissemination
  4. Characterization of the Seafloor and the Sub-surface
  5. Aquaculture

Within the Canadian working group, ocean literacy is included within bullet point number three and the two co-leads for ocean literacy were identified and started to participate in the working group in early winter, 2015. Tom Sephton, Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Anne Stewart, Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE) are working together as co-leads for ocean literacy. It was as co-lead on ocean literacy, that I was able to attend the Galway Tripartite Implementation meeting in Brussels. It is important to understand that this is a long-term agreement. It is still very early days for the working group and particularly for the ocean literacy leads. Input, information, comments, suggestions and support are fully encouraged.

Significant transatlantic ocean literacy activity has gone on since the signing at Galway. Transatlantic ocean literacy (TOL) has been the focus of several international, workshops where ocean literacy was recognized to be important for informed citizenry and leadership beyond curriculum, as well as within the classroom, K – 16. TOL workshops were conducted in Plymouth (2013) and Goteborg (2014), in collaboration with the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA). As a participant in these activities, I can attest that the spirit of intent at these TOL workshops was to foster ocean literacy throughout the transatlantic countries involved, not just those parts or provinces that border the north Atlantic basin. Also emphasized and reiterated were the links with other parts of the global ocean, specifically including Arctic – Atlantic connections which are included in the Statement. The Plymouth TOL workshop produced a report and published a Vision Statement on TOL. Both a TOL workshop report and a TOL implementation plan followed from the Goteborg workshop (I can send these to you if you are interested.). The European Commission was represented and involved throughout this TOL activity.

The European Commission continues to support advances in transatlantic ocean literacy through Blue Growth, which is the EU’s long-term strategy for sustainable growth in the marine sector. Blue Growth is recognized, as an economic driver with great potential for innovation and ocean literacy is part and parcel. Investing in Blue Growth, the European Commission, put out several Horizon 2020 calls, for EU-specific proposals to advance ocean literacy. This European investment runs parallel to implementation of the Galway Statement and in my opinion, ups the ante, for multilateral support.

We are  progressing quickly, taking into consideration the size of the players (EU, US and Canada). The first two Galway implementation, meetings followed the signing; Washington DC in 2013 and Ottawa, late in 2014. The third tripartite meeting, was the February 23, 2015 meeting that I attended. Held in Brussels at the Marine Resources Unit of the Bio-economy Directorate, part of the European Commission (EC) Directorate-General for Research & Innovation, I believe it was the first tripartite meeting to truly embrace the topic of ocean literacy.

The morning session was a plenary; hosted by Sigi Gruber, Head of the Marine Resources Unit, our delightful taskmaster for the day. Opening remarks by John Bell (EC, Research and Innovation), Terry Schaefer (USA, NOAA) and Trevor Swerdfager, (Canada, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans – Science) set a very comfortable tone for the day, while reviewing accomplishments. Ocean literacy bubbled through comments, adding zest to remarks on jobs, economy, innovation, environment, exploration and research. These gentlemen clarified that we were all there to advance the realization of the Galway Statement. A tour of the table and introductions followed with many participants engaged in the other two topics; Seabed Mapping and Aquaculture. Updates on follow-up activities to the Galway Statement came next and I concentrated on the ocean literacy presentation by Gaelle LeBouler (EC), filling in for Paula Keener, (NOAA) who was grounded by a blizzard in the US.

Gaelle spoke of the relative “newness” of ocean literacy and need to better structure transatlantic ocean literacy. Gaelle noted the need to develop strategies to boost ocean literacy on both sides of the Atlantic and briefed the group on the 2014 TOL workshop and its consensus to adopt the seven principles of ocean literacy while adapting/adopting the conceptual framework. Gaelle brought us up to date on the Blue Growth calls; BG-13, BG-14, the proposal responses and current status. Nine of the 12 BG-13 proposals submitted had Canadian and US participation and two of these are to be funded for several million Euros to start in spring 2015. It should be noted that Canadians and Americans are not eligible for this funding. The proposal under discussion for BG14 – Coordination and Support Action (CSA) to Support the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, also included a work package dedicated to ocean literacy. These three ‘winning’ proposals are in the process of working out agreements, in transition from the proposal stage to projects to be launched mid-April.

  • Sea Change through the Marine Biological Association (MBA) (UK)
  • ResponseABLE through the University of Brest (FR)
  • Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action (AORAC-SA) through the Marine Institute (Foras na Mara), Galway, (IE)


Representatives of the three proposals presented briefly to the whole group. Peter Hefferen of the Marine Institute presented on the BG-14, AORAC-SA proposal mentioning partners including ICES, PLOCAN, IFREMER, IMR, Spain and Ciência Viva. He explained that they would be working on governance, coordination and communication, including research priorities, expert workshops, knowledge sharing and shared access to infrastructure. Peter noted that they would be supporting and coordinating with the efforts of the two BG-13 groups and that they would be uniting around the common theme of working hard to meet the Galway agreement.


Fiona Crouch of the MBA presented on the Sea Change proposal, remarking that this consortium of 17 applicants encompasses multiple European/International organizations and multi-disciplinary partners, including diverse expertise in ocean literacy, marine science education, social innovation and behavioural change. Focus on the interdependence of human well-being and ocean health would be addressed through education, engagement and governance. The over-arching goal would be to bring about fundamental change in the way European citizens see themselves in relation to the ocean and to empower them to act sustainably towards healthy seas. A baseline review of good ocean literacy practices and current marine education programs, will lead into communication and education campaigns, possibly incorporating citizen science. There are plans for a legacy component. Fiona reported that Sea Change would work closely with both ResponSEAble and AORAC-SA and looks forward to needed, coordination of efforts.

Denis Bailey of the University of Brest, presented on the ResponSEAble proposal, which has 15 partners, a mix of large research groups, NGOs and enterprise. This group would map links between society and benefits of the sea as well as society’s influence on the sea. They would use social science to see what works in a cost-efficient way and broaden the scope for identified topics to produce ocean literacy products and good communication that is tested in a live-laboratory.

Time for discussion was made after the seabed mapping and aquaculture presentations and before the breakout sessions. Several remarks touched on the broad importance of ocean literacy. Joao Ribeiro, Portugal, commented on specifically on the importance of engaging youngsters, the career and employment links and the need for the Atlantic Action Plan to be in day to day thinking. The following point-form notes touch on some of the discussion points and I apologize for not being able to attribute individual speakers, difficult to identify from where I sat.

  • IODP ocean drilling program as model for international research cooperation, capacity building and direct connections to seabed mapping, deep oceans and science-policy interfaces
  • Joint Program Initiative (JPI) on Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans JPI Oceans conference May 7, with ecological impacts of deep-sea mining and micro-plastics on agenda.
  • Partnership for Global Observation (POGO) European Optical Society (EOS) meeting on optics in the sea, May 12/13. European Marine Board is planning a brainstorming workshop, to bring together science communicators and oceanographers to make recommendations.
  • Atlantic Integrated Observing Systems and issues with broader inter-disciplinary training for post-graduates
  • Arctic/Atlantic linkages and opportunities to further develop cooperation, modeling after ICES. Fish stocks moving northward with climate change, Arctic Council involved
  • Pilot, climate change, citizen (EU, US, Canada) science program launching soon
  • Germany holds the G7 leadership this year and topic of marine litter is on agenda. JPI Oceans already engaged in ocean plastics, a lot going on.
  • Ocean plastics could easily be taken up at the political level, as a low-hanging fruit

At this juncture and mention of food, it was time to move.

The ocean literacy break-out group moved by foot and metro to a different location. It was all very efficient. We ate lunch en route at an EC cafeteria and were soon seated around a smaller table, joined via videoconference by Paula Keener, NOAA, Peter Tuddenham, College of Co-exploration and my co-lead on ocean literacy Tom Sephton, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The topic-specific, break-out group gave the opportunity to learn more about the specific proposals’ work plans, the nitty-gritty of their rationales and some of the other activities going on. I include point-form notes.

Sea Change

  • 17 partners
  • US & Canadian advisers
  • Designed to bring positive change to how European citizens relate to the sea
  • Empowering ocean literate citizens who take steps towards healthy seas & oceans, healthy communities & a healthy planet
  • Deeper understanding of how health of citizens depends on ocean health
  • Review knowledge outputs on links between ocean & human health
  • Use social change methodologies, change agents, embed across networks & established strategic initiatives
  • Build on what has been done, evaluate on sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency
  • Leave a legacy to continue beyond project life & ensure more active role of citizens
  • Baseline Review in collaboration with ResponSEAble
  • Dissemination & Communication in coordination with ResponSEAble. This public awareness campaign will include these aspects.
  • Two way process, dialogue, exchange, including mutual gain of knowledge from EU, US & Canadians (both ways)
  • Strong evaluation & impact processes throughout to identify what works & what doesn’t work

ResponSEAble (BG13)

  • Digging into the complexity of how society & ocean relates, translated broadly into various forms of communication
  • Publicly accessible and structured knowledge base
  • Guidance developing OL activities with:
  1. Sound practices
  2. Real life applications
  3. Communication activities developed in Europe
  • Diverse North American partners,


  • Will work very closely with other OL projects
  • Want to enable society to be able to ‘see into the water’
  • Specific work package on OL led by Ana Noronha from Portugal
  • Human & institutional dimensions are important
  • It will be an outgrowth of Galway agreement
  • Event planned in Lisbon, June 5th, in concert with Blue Economy and a special edition of the Economist is planned
  • Significance is high profile, the people & projects are very encouraging should be able to change perspectives
  • Many complementarities with other projects

Next was a presentation on the EU Atlas of the Seas, and again I include my point-form notes.

  • Accessible to public with easy mode
  • Advanced mode for professional user, a lot of data, energy, transport, marine protected areas, etc.
  • The closer you get to shore, the more information there is
  • Visualization tool with data from different sources
  • Simple mode, complex modes–make connections between aspects, meta information, data sources, add maps & layers
  • Includes information on the Arctic
  • How can this tool contribute to OL efforts?

Ward Appletons of UNESCO and the International Oceanographic Council (IOC) presented next on some of their many OL activities.

  • 147 member states‐ocean research programs
  • Global capacity for marine science observations
  • Healthy ocean ecosystems, early warning for hazards, building resilience, emerging knowledge issues, traditional ecological knowledge issues
  • Science knowledge to societal benefit, capacity development
  • Education for sustainable development,
  • UNESCO roadmap, international involvement in OL, TEK,
  • Academic, professional development, sharing, OL community of practice, guidelines for public information.
  • Ocean Teacher (Be) 1400 people (Flanders Govt.), now going global, training the trainers, 1st w/ data management then will expand
  • Art competition, Day of Seas & Ocean, Ocean challenge badge
  • Open access data information, data publication, Sea Change plug‐in
  • Ocean climate platform, UNESCO on campus, Surfrider etc.

Some of the discussion that followed is encapsulated here.

  • There is lots going on in ocean literacy internationally.
  • There is a need to operationalize and come up with tangibles.
  • Concrete suggestions – for OL brochures to be put in seat pockets of flights, OL articles in inflight magazines, additions to digital flight maps on international airlines with information on ocean below
  • Identified that goodwill is needed, for everyone, to reach out to their contacts and be willing to share. It was also reiterated that defined, specific, and common goals would be part of major projects. Fiona noted that they are still open to ideas, for the public campaign that you want to see.

There was a brief discussion about the extent of Ocean Literacy: whether it should be global, since it is really one ocean, or transatlantic only? Then, if transatlantic only, should it be north basin only or should it include southern Atlantic? It was noted that there is serious and tangible Brazilian and South African interest in cooperation. There seemed to be consensus to start with a basin approach (the north-Atlantic with Arctic connections) as a good way to move forward toward global OL and to best reflect the Galway Statement.

One topic that had a short and very positive discussion was the Endorsement and/or Adoption of Ocean Literacy Principles in Europe. Sigi suggested using the seven principles as a way to move together successfully. There was total agreement. Under the topic of Seabed Mapping & Ocean Literacy, Paula (NOAA) suggested using concept mapping to help map out the diverse contributions to transatlantic ocean literacy that participants bring to the table. She suggested this as a way to help understand and fit the complex pieces together. This was well received, especially by those familiar with the Concept Linked Integrated Media Builder (CLIMB) used by Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) at the University of Maine. This concept-mapping tool is effectively used to make sense of complex ocean systems and ocean learning complexity.

The group ran out of time for comment on the last topic entitled Contribution of Stakeholder’s Roadmap and we made our way back to the larger, group wrap-up session, to report back.

The whirlwind of a meeting was over and I headed out into nighttime Brussels in search of chocolate. As I walked the cobblestone streets, between the neoclassical facades, and gothic gargoyles, antique architecture dominated the scene. I reflected on the day, the people, and their mix of interests, yet common will, to implement the Galway agreement. This international movement bodes well for ocean literacy in Canada. We are committed from the highest level nationally, the Canadian Galway Marine Working Group has ocean literacy on its agenda and the two co-chairs are working together to further ocean literacy in Canada. CaNOE has been well launched and with over 200 members is gaining momentum. It actually feels a bit like we are shooting the rapids and heading for the sea.

Unabashed, promotional addendum to meeting notes.

Canadian Network for Ocean Education Society (CaNOE)

Canadian Network for Ocean Education Society (CaNOE)

The table is set for Canada to collaborate internationally on ocean literacy. To get our own house in order, an increase in coordination and communication would further good practices and allow celebration of on-going efforts, while we advance to the next stage. The Canadian Network for Ocean Education CaNOE provides a pan-Canadian platform with momentum. CaNOE hosts the first conference on Ocean Literacy in Canada, June 17 & 18 in Vancouver, BC and you are all invited.

The results of an initial survey of Canadian scientists on the seven principles of ocean science literacy will be presented then. The anticipated adoption of the principles by Canadian scientists will provide a Canadian foundation for common OL messaging. The simple survey takes < five minutes, total. If you belong to a Canadian marine or aquatic science association that would be willing to be surveyed, please let me know.

More francophone participation in CaNOE, en français, is  also needed. CaNOE is having an election of a new board at the June 17 AGM and we are recruiting now for the new board now to pull together for ocean literacy in Canada. Suggestions welcomed.

These notes are not official transcripts or minutes, they are just my notes, translated into a blog that I write about ocean literacy. I would like to correct any errors, omissions or misunderstandings, so please contact me with comments. Anne Stewart <astewart.bamfieldATgmail.com>

Post Script – The Launch of Horizon 2020 BG13 and BG 14 happened in Brussels, April 16, 2015. Link here to more information


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February 20th, Ocean Literacy Workshop Follow-up

Hello participants of the Ocean Literacy Workshop held February 20, 2015 at the Royal BC Museum. What a wonderful day that was, getting to know each other through the ocean literacy conceptual framework puzzle, going to the different galleries and learning so much from each other. I really appreciated what Michelle Washington brought to the day through her perspective, the First Peoples’ gallery and the voices of the land and the sea.

I had a lot of fun doing hands-on activities with you on the Climate Change and Ocean portion of the workshop. It always amazes me how much you can learn by simply messing about in boats, or in this case by simply messing about with water.

As promised, here are some resources for you. Below is a bit of a list and the outlines of activities that we did follow the list. I also added a few that I talked about but didn’t demonstrate, at the very end. Stay in touch and please join us in Vancouver for the First Canadian Conference on Ocean Literacy. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the conference.

Thanks for being part of that special day.

Ocean literacy

Ocean literacy campaign http://vimeo.com/45536990

Canadian Network for Ocean Education http://www.oceanliteracy.ca

Climate change and oceans

Digital explorer video – Melting ice-cubes in salt water & fresh water (cans of peas, Jamie in Antarctica)


Digital explorer web-site, you need to register: http://oceans.digitalexplorer.com/

Ocean Acidification

I have included quite a few Ocean Acidification resources because for the most part we only really got around to lowering the pH of the water (and measuring it colour-metrically) by making bubbles. That is by adding carbon dioxide through the straw and through the yeasty-sugar bubblers. I would love to do a workshop that is just on ocean acidification next time. It is such an important topic. You will notice below a lot of the resources are from just to our south. They have been motivated by ocean acidification threatening their shellfish industry, what are we doing?

Pacific Northwest/ Washington State Ocean Acidification https://vimeo.com/54408927

or as below


http://oceanacidification.noaa.gov/AreasofFocus/EducationOutreach/AdditionalResources.aspx has excellent links to further resources

20 Facts about Ocean Acidification: http://www.whoi.edu/fileserver.do?id=165564&pt=2&p=150429

Ocean Acidification in the Pacific North West: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oa/201405­

Fairly technical but written for the lay person- six things we know about ocean acidification in Pacific Northwest coastal waters: http://coenv.washington.edu/research/major­initiatives/ocean­acidification/ocean­acidification­in-the­pacific­northwest/

To learn more about the science behind ocean acidification, visit NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

For more information on the impacts of ocean acidification on humans and marine life, visit the NRDC’s website:http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/acidification/

NRDC has produced a film diving into the causes and consequences of ocean acidification: http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/acidification/aboutthefilm.asp

For more on what you can do to help, reduce C02 emissions & visit the Deeper Dive at Ocean Conservancy: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/ocean-acidification/deeper-dive…

Read about the $2 million Xprize for ocean health an award from Wendy Schmidt to develop a new better, tougher, easier to use pH sensor for measuring ocean acidification. http://oceanhealth.xprize.org/ (Inspiring.)

Health & Safety Note 

Alway go over potential hazards and how to mitigate and increase safety for any experiment. There is a reason that salt in is listed in the Material Safety Data Sheets. Be especially careful with hot water, fire hazards, water/salt water and electrical hazards etc. Use common sense and preventative measures to protect children (and carpets). Some of these experiments are more fun run outside. For example, pour water down the string works well on an outdoors stairway but remember the falling hazard. (yikes)

Enquiry and peer learning on basic properties of water: Small groups of 2 – 3 students to run simple experiments, make predications, collect data, graph & present findings to peers (quickly and informally).

Cohesive properties of waterHow many drops can you fit on a penny? … Extension ideas -with versus without soap, hot versus cold, heads vs tails etc. tally it, control for extraneous variables, graph it, talk it up.

As a follow-up check out some of these amazing wave images under seascapes and relate back to cohesion properties. http://raycollinsphoto.com/

Adhesive properties of water – This one is more of an engineering challenge. Move water on a string. (2 cups, cotton string, water) – transport a cup of water using cotton string and gravity from one side of room to the other side). Extension ideas – time of travel or volume transported as a function of wetted versus dry string. Have students work together to mop the floor, get up on a chair and pour the water down the string, catch the water in a cup at the other end without getting their fingers in the way, too much.

What is the difference between what happens to sea level, when sea-ice melts in the Arctic and glacial ice melts in the Antarctic?


Two containers

Measuring device



Cans of peas




Design an experiment that would model a comparison of sea level rise from melting sea ice (In the Arctic, sea ice is already in the ocean so make sure that your model has the melting ice already in the water.) and melting glaciers (In the Antarctic up to 90% of the world’ freshwater is bound up in glaciers on land, so make sure that your melting ice is “on land”.)

Get approval for set-up, run experiment. Measure, record data and graph for sharing (aka big). Remember to give the graph a title, note the units & label axes.

Adapted from Digital Explorer. See video as listed at top of page.

Melting Ice-Cube Experiments http://mirjamglessmer.com/?s=melting+ice+cubes&submit=Search

We did a fairly simple version of this endlessly interesting example of how much you can learn about the physics of water with a couple of cups of water, some salt, ice and the ever cool, food colouring. I refer you here, to the queen of the melting ice cube and wonderful teacher Mirjam Glessmer of Germany. Mirjam has multiple variations on the theme of the melting ice-cube. Her amazing web-site is all about oceanography and teaching, brilliant, in my opinion. http://mirjamglessmer.com/

Colourful Density-Driven Currents Experiment

How do changes in salinity and temperature form density-driven currents? (Also know as thermohaline currents)


2.5 L, or larger tank or tub (must be able to look through the sides to see what happens, doesn’t have to be totally clear, just clear enough to see how the coloured water moves and mixes). Glass give best visibility but is a safety risk as it can break.

Aluminum foil

Food colouring blue and red preferably

Duct tape

Several containers

Graduated cylinders or small buckets

Large plastic syringes without needles, or turkey basters ; – )


  1. Engineer a wall to divide a tank in two using aluminum foil and tape. Test your wall to insure it is watertight.
  2. In a container mix at least 1 L of water with 150 g of salt and some red food colouring. Fill a second container with 1 L fresh water with blue food colouring..
  3. Carefully pour the coloured waters into each side of the tank at the same time. Keep adding hot, fresh red water to one side and cold, salty blue water to the other side.
  4. Puncture two holes (pencil sized) in the barrier, one just below the surface of the water and the second hole near the bottom of the aquarium. Observe what happens.
  5. Investigate further. Can you create a tank with three or four layers of different coloured water? Can you create a current between two layers of water?


  1. What did you observe when you put holes in the dividing wall? Which water was denser?
  2. How do temperature and salinity affect the density of water?
  3. How to temperature and salinity form currents in the oceans?
  4. The big ocean conveyer belt that carries water masses on very long (100s of years) travels around the world, is a density driven current. It starts where the north Atlantic interacts with the Arctic. There very cold, very salty water is super dense and sinks through lighter water pushing the current.
  5. How might climate change affect density driven ocean currents?
  6. What can we do as individuals, schools, communities, provinces and nations to reduce the effects of climate change on oceans?

Adapted from Count Marsili and the Mediterranean Current by SEA semester, available at http://www.sea.edu/academics/k-12_detail/count_marsili_the_mediterranean_current

 Thermal Properties of Water – Specific Heat Capacity


balloons, tea candle, lighter or matches, water, air, safety goggles, lab coats (optional)


Specific Heat Capacity The amount of heat that must be absorbed or lost for one gram of a substance to change its temperature by 1o C. Water has the highest specific heat of any known substance.

Theory: High specific heat capacity allows organisms, which are mostly water to absorb heat energy without changing temperature. Even the heat generated by reactions in cells would damage or destroy cells if not for the high specific heat of water. Think about the colour of our planet and how important the ocean is in regulating temperature. It is both our air conditioner and heater because of its specific heat capacity.

Safety – Use safety glasses for this activity. Fire burns so wear your lab coat and tuck in loose clothing and hair. Avoid the flame ; – ) Do it outside or somewhere that can get wet! For younger students this is a demo.

Method – Fill two balloons, one with water, one with air. Predict which balloon will blow up first and why. Light the candle. Control variables like how the high above the flame you hold the balloon. Record the time to explosion for both substances in a table. (Maximum 2 minutes.) Repeat a few times. Graph. Reflect, conclude, discuss in relation to water molecules hydrogen bonds. What were the weaknesses of this experiment? How would you improve it?

Thermal Properties of Water – Latent Heat


Latent Heat: Heat absorbed or released as the result of a phase change (solid – liquid or liquid – gas) is called latent heat.

Latent heat of fusion: Is the amount of heat absorbed during melting or released during freezing.

Latent heat of vaporization: Is the amount of energy absorbed during evaporation or released during condensation.

SafetyDo not use mercury thermometers with students. A broken thermometer is a sharp hazard. Discuss what to do if a thermometer breaks.

Take six equally sized pieces of paper towel. Wet three towels and leave the other three dry. Check & record room temperature with four numbered thermometers. Wrap four thermometers with the paper towels as similarly as possible. Measure the temperature after five minutes for each numbered thermometer. Take an average for wet and dry. Graph your results. Label graph, axes & show units.

Have fun, be safe, make discoveries.