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Transatlantic Ocean Literacy Workshop

This is a blog about the Trans-Atlantic Ocean Literacy (TOL) Workshop, held at the University of Gothenburg, September 30, 2014. The views here are my own, not the official report. In this blog you will find some of the back-story and context of the TOL workshop, including information on the organizations and individuals involved. This approach helps in understanding the complexities and challenges of advancing meaningful and substantive ocean literacy across the Atlantic and around the world.

I am grateful to the TOL Workshop organizing committee listed here.

  • Evy Copejans – Belgium
  • Diana Payne – USA
  • Fiona Couch – UK
  • Geraldine Fauville – Sweden
  • Peter Tuddenham – USA

This team, joined by presenters and facilitators accomplished a great deal in this a one-day, decision-making workshop. I was caught off guard by how fast the time flew, during this tightly packed and well orchestrated day.

The organizing committee stated that “the overarching goals of the workshop” were “to catalyze transatlantic collaborations in ocean science research and education and to advance our collective work in ocean literacy.”

The approach was to build on work done previously in:

  • Bruges, BE in October, 2012 at the First Conference on Ocean Literacy in Europe, hosted by the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA)
  • Ireland, May 2013 with the signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation by Canada, USA and EU.
  • Plymouth, UK in September, 2013, at the first TOL workshop and second EMSEA conference.
  • Annapolis, US in July 2014 at the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) conference and their International Committee’s pre-conference workshop on Ocean Literacy.

The work part of this workshop involved:

  • Preparation, dialogue, reflection and decision-making about the adoption and implementation of the Ocean Literacy Framework, (the focus of three workshops at EMSEA13 in Plymouth).
  • Learning more from national case studies in advancing ocean literacy
  • Identifying priority actions to increase transatlantic ocean literacy.
  • Making decisions leading to the creation of a draft action plan for TOL

We started with a round of delegate introductions. This international group of 27 participants came from 11 EU countries, plus the United States, Canada and for the first time, Brazil. There were also a few Americans attending through Skype. Before I dive into the workshop contents, I want to introduce you (with some help from their web-sites) to a few of the attendees and the organizations they represent, to help put their important contributions into context.

Francesca Santoro represented UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The significance of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), is described on their web-site:

Established in 1960 as a functional autonomous body within UNESCO, it is the only competent organization for marine science within the UN system. The purpose of the Commission is to promote international cooperation and to coordinate programmes in research, services and capacity-building, in order to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of management, sustainable development, the protection of the marine environment, and the decision-making processes of its Member States.”

Francesca brought several important high-level, international events to our attention including IOC-UNESCO’s 2nd International Ocean Research Conference, One Planet One Ocean (IORC), Barcelona (ES) and the Marine Session at UNESCO’s World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, Aichi-Nagoya. She felt that these would be valuable venues to advance ocean literacy within already receptive and capable communities.

Gaelle Le Bouler, attended from the EUs’ Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, which is the body that “defines and implements European Research and Innovation (R&I) policy with a view to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy and its key flagship initiative, the Innovation Union”. The EU strategy explicitly includes achieving ocean literacy “by helping citizens understand the influence of seas and oceans on their lives and how their behaviour can have an impact on marine ecosystems.” The EU sees ocean literacy as a “pre-requisite to ecosystem-based marine management and the promotion of understanding/protection of marine ecosystem services.” Although the core of the EU strategy involves sustainable exploitation of marine resources and more jobs, it is balanced with good ocean environmental stewardship. It is understood that the “development of the new maritime economy can have important socioeconomic consequences in coastal and marine areas, with potential synergies and/or conflicts between old and new activities.” The EU sees that “these developments, together with pressures from human activities and climate change on the marine environment, make it crucial to engage with citizens and stakeholders about seas and ocean challenges.”
Gaelle brought the group up to speed on ‘la guerre de la mer’, and Blue Growth working groups. There are six teams that are up and running, including the marine working group, arctic, scientific, engineering, etc.. There is trilateral representation on the steering committee Paula Keener (NOAA), Gaelle (EU) and Fisheries & Oceans (Canada). She noted that work with Canada was less advanced and did not know who was the Canadian representative. Gaelle also talked about Horizon 2020 calls for proposals and reminded us of the upcoming late November announcement date for the competition for Blue Growth: Unlocking the potential of Seas and Oceans, BG-13-2014, Topic: Ocean literacy – Engaging with society – Social Innovation.

Ana Noronha was there from Portugal’s National Agency for Culture, Science and Technology, the Ciencia Viva, Conhecer os Oceanos (Knowing the Ocean) project and remarked on the successful route her country has followed. Portugal is a European leader in adopting the seven essential principles of ocean science and is years ahead of everyone in adapting the concepts of the Ocean Literacy Framework to the Portuguese reality. They have taken a consultative approach in collaboration with their research institutes of Marine Sciences and Education. The last few years have seen an expansion beyond marinating science curriculum to including history and geography and they are now moving on to art and culture to ensure that the ocean is at the heart of Portuguese cognizance. Portugal is a nation to look up to, for successful, efficient strategies in advancing ocean literacy.

In my view, the Americans are the parents of Ocean Literacy, including the well-represented adoptive parents, the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) (Diana Payne, Susan Haynes, Meghan Merrero, Adam Frederick) and the god-parents Peter Tuddenham and Tina Bishop, (College of Exploration). There is much we can learn from the American experience and looking at the role of one individual may seem frivolous but certainly helped me understand the complexity of layers and the calibre of webs at the individual level.

Gail Scowcroft stood out in the American crowd, because of the passion and persuasiveness of what she had to say and the depth and breadth of her knowledge and commitment to ocean literacy. With further research I found out why. Gail is faculty at University of Rhode Island (URI) School for Graduate School for Oceanographic Studies, a Senior Fellow at the Coastal Institute and founder of the National Science Foundation funded Coordination Office for the Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance. She is also the Executive Director of the American Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE), which under Gail’s leadership COSEE is transforming from a National Science Foundation network to an independent and international consortium. Gail does all of this from the URI Office of Marine Programs where she is also the Associate Director of the Inner Space Center (ISC). I know it is a bit of a tangent from the workshop but lets just look at the tip of this one iceberg – ISC.

ISC is like ‘mission control’ for oceanographic expeditions and utilizes “telepresence technologies to bring oceanographic exploration to the world in real time”. A list of a few of the center’s partners read like a who’s who of American organizations and agencies advancing ocean literacy; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer, National Marine Sanctuaries, Ocean Exploration Trust, E/V Nautilus feed, Sea Research Foundation, National Geographic, COSEE and Smithsonian. Gail is doing really amazing work in advancing ocean literacy from training teachers in new marine technologies, to networking organizations to “increase adoption of effective, high quality educational programs and resources” Maybe you can see why I was impressed and how just a name on a list of participants doesn’t tell much of the story. My completely boiled-down, take-away messages from Gail were:

  • Include the scientists in science education
  • Include undergraduates in marine science education, k- 16 instead of k – 12

Matt Rockall and I were the only Canadian participants and represented the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE). CaNOE is a coast to coast, to coast, pan-Canadian network that is working to advance ocean literacy in Canada and abroad. I was completely humbled by the workshop participants and was honoured to be a part of it. Most amazingly, not only were they ocean literacy superheroes, they were also warm, funny and very approachable. I also guessed that for each name on the list of participants there is an amazing back-story that would fill many blogs. I will resist that urge and get on with the workshop.

John Parr (UK) of the Marine Biological Association (MBA) presented the results of previous TOL meetings including the published Vision Statement[1] and his colleague Fiona Crouch (MBA/EMSEA) and UK American Peter Tuddenham presented an overview of recent and up-coming TOL activities.

Ana Noronha and Evy Copejans facilitated the first workshop component on adapting and implementing the US Ocean Literacy Framework, by presenting national case studies from Portugal and Belgium. This was followed by discussion, reflection and a vote. In her presentation, Ana asked why the ocean is so important to Portugal and answered that “Portugal is more ocean than land, the ocean is at our heart and also is our future”. Portugal benefitted by adopting and adapting the Ocean Literacy Framework early and managing the project of adoption and adaptation, with clarity and purpose. The first step was consultation with Portuguese ocean scientists. The second piece was science education, seen as a platform between scientists, communicators, educators and the general public. Research revealed that the ocean was scattered around the curricula and sometimes missed: so working with experts, they did science education, and then moved on to history and geography education consultations. They wove the ocean into curriculum, did posters and mapping of the curriculum, teacher training, and set up a web-page with information and all the resources created since 2003, classified according to the seven principles. These successes included engagement at all levels of Portuguese society from media coverage of high-level politicians engaging and promoting ocean literacy to the empowerment of teachers and working at the community level. Using a project management approach, they made it their own, moved it forward and have considerably advanced ocean literacy in Portugal, providing a shining example of what can be done where there is a will.

Evy is the Senior Science Officer in the Communications Division, at the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ). The VLIZ mission has “evolved into the central coordination and information platform for marine and coastal scientific research in Flanders. As a partner in various projects and networks VLIZ also promotes and supports the international image of Flemish marine scientific research and international marine education.” Evy and her colleagues Eggermont, Hoeberigs and Seys found Belgian geography and biology students learn most about the sea outside of school. There are some well-known, isolated facts but survey results indicated poor knowledge concerning oceans and seas with average scores of 52%. Evy made the point that the ocean is really integral to science literacy and one cannot be science literate without being ocean literate. As in many countries, making curricular changes is a challenging, long-term goal and lobby power is needed for changes at that level. In the meantime they are trying to help fill the gaps.

It is often too rough and cold to go out to sea in the North Sea, so the Flemish strategy has been to bring the ocean to classes by marinating the curriculum, creating teacher’s resources and creating booklets for teachers on topics already covered in class e.g. physics – waves; chemistry – ocean pH changes; biology – photosynthesis. Evy emphasized that effective, educational transformation requires motivated teachers, and she sees that investing in teachers is really important. VLIZ is working with the Flemish Science Teacher Association and they have invited curriculum developers, to Bruges, to work on topics such as the evolution of whales, chemosynthesis, enzyme labs, ocean ecology, sustainable issues regarding ocean plastic pollution etc.

In Belgium, there is a pragmatic viewpoint regarding adoption of the seven principles: why reinvent the world? Adopt and move on to the next level of the framework, the concepts. There are still some cultural issues to over-come conceptually, for example, Belgium does not have the culture of exploration but can reframe it into an approach of discovery. In the Belgian education system, there is a strong distinction between geography, biology, physics and chemistry so those need to be reflected in the concepts. A big working group was suggested in order to put curricular details into concepts, with large input from teachers.

Evy’s take home message in terms of transforming the public education system into a more ocean literate science education approach, was that personal contact with curriculum developers and teachers is crucial. Identify people and invite them to be part of the process, take them out on a ship, and let them hear from scientists and educators from around the world. Do a conference together with the science teachers. Get their opinions on the resources. Work with universities and colleges that prepare teachers.

Evy chaired the discussion that followed on adoption of the US Ocean Literacy Framework. Many voices echoed that adoption of the principals and adaptation of the concepts was the way to go. There are hurdles everywhere due to the process of science curriculum development. For example in British Columbia, Canada the K – 9 science curriculum has just been revised to focus on “big ideas” and the big ideas don’t include the big ocean but will make it more possible for individual teachers, schools and school districts adopt ocean literacy. The “big ideas” approach to science curriculum revision is also sweeping Europe. Luc Zwartes, Belgian educator and workshop participant, commented, that as Belgian science curriculum is rethought, the big ideas of ocean and seas need to be fundamental. It was noted that in Belgium, teachers need both a European platform and a proper translation. “Ocean geletterheid” just doesn’t have traction. Interestingly, translation of the word literacy into an appropriate word is a broader issue. A direct translation didn’t work in either case study and it is also an issue in French. Some favour just using the English word. As noted above, the Portuguese used the word ‘knowing’ which seems to be working well.

The vote that followed on the adoption of the seven essential principals of ocean literacy, for ocean sciences education, resulted in a resounding and unanimous YES from all attendees.

After lunch we rolled up our sleeves, divided into two groups, did two breakout sessions, reported back and then had a full group discussion of priority actions to increase trans-Atlantic ocean literacy. The objectives were to empower the collective vision for trans-Atlantic ocean literacy, identify a set of priority actions to achieve the vision and identify transnational complementarities on the theme of ocean literacy. Jans Seys (Belgium), Diana Payne (US), Ivo Grigorov (Denmark) and Susan Haynes (US) chaired and facilitated these whirlwind activities. It worked well because of the great people involved and because it built on the conversations that had been evolving for years.

What came out of this head-spinning exercise is elegantly and succinctly outlined in the TOL Workshop report and the TOL Strategy and Implementation Plan which came out of the workshop and which will soon be posted on http://oceanliteracy.wp2.coexploration.org/transatlantic-ocean-literacy/ . To sum up, short, medium and long-term priority actions were identified that advance the three objectives in the TOL Vision Statement listed below.

Vision Statement, Objective 1 Encourage cooperation and best practice exchange between Marine Educators Associations and all interested actors from both sides of the Atlantic, and seek to promote and apply ocean literacy globally.

Vision Statement, Objective 2: Raise awareness of the two-way interactions between the Atlantic Ocean and daily life, and empower citizens to adapt their everyday behaviour.

Vision Statement, Objective 3: Seek and apply innovative ways to make the future citizens ocean-literate citizens, so that they understand environmental challenges and policies, and make informed and responsible decisions on ocean stewardship.

Short-term, the conversation will continue to evolve through an inclusive on-line forum, including identified key players and cascading networks. A Global Ocean Literacy Guide will be developed, translated and disseminated. Collaborative activities will be organized for World Ocean Day, Global Ocean Literacy Day, and other existing initiatives. Large-scale events as were identified will be used as platforms to promote ocean literacy globally. Medium and long-term plans are outlined in the workshop report and will also continue to develop throughout the year with another boost at the 2015 NMEA conference and ocean literacy workshop in Rhode Island, the 2015 TOL workshop and EMSEA conference in Greece and the 2015 CaNOE Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

I had been asked to comment during the conclusion of the workshop with reflections on the importance the TOL workshop from a Canadian point of view. The highlight for me was the unanimous and enthusiastic yes vote, to adopt the seven principals of Ocean Literacy. Having consensus on the basic principles for science education will help unify communications and enable a more focused international campaign. Local, national, and international adoption and subsequent adaptation of concepts, specific to different regions, curricula and languages, will greatly assist in building comparable frameworks to help promote an active and successful transatlantic ocean literacy network.

From a Canadian point of view, I remarked that we have a lot of work ahead and thanked others who have blazed the way. Canada’s global ocean literacy challenges involve:

  • Fronting three ocean fronts with over 200,000 km of shoreline,
  • A diversity of language, culture, and regional geography/oceanography.
  • Multiple jurisdictions for both education and ocean
  • Vast space

The first principle of ocean literacy is that there is one ocean, which makes attaining ocean literacy daunting in the face of the physical size of the ocean. The scale and scope of the ocean and societal challenges in implementing ocean literacy nationally and internationally are huge. The Galway Statement signed by the EU, US and Canada includes one bullet point on ocean literacy and it simplifies the more global task by focusing in on the North Atlantic basin (and its arctic interactions). This reduces Canada’s challenges, to a shorter shoreline, only five provinces, two languages, fewer indigenous nations and foundation that has already been built through a long history of trade and cooperation with Europe and the United States. As CaNOE works to advance ocean literacy in Canada from coast to coast to coast, I have confidence that TOL will provide an international model for cooperation and collaboration, which will ultimately set the course towards global ocean literacy. I came away from TOL more motivated and more determined to help further ocean literacy in Canada. The organizers, facilitators, participants, methods and achievements of the workshop were all inspiring.

Back at home I am helping to build the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE), increasing membership, making sure that scientists are onboard and helping organize the first conference and AGM (in conjunction with MEOPAR Annual Science Meeting) in Vancouver, June 17, 18, 2015. Please join us.

Over the next three years I hope to be involved as an international adviser on ocean literacy, working with some of the people attending TOL workshops and EMSEA conferences. I have also joined the Galway Canadian Marine Working Group as co-lead on ocean literacy. I will report back on this activity in blogs throughout the year. All the best to you, your family and friends in 2015.

 

The following will help link to organizations and websites mentioned in the blog.

European Marine Science Educators Association – http://www.emsea.eu

National Marine Educators Association (US) http://www.marine-ed.org

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

Galway Statement on Atlantic Cooperation – http://www.innovation.ca/sites/default/files/Rome2013/files/Canada-EU-US Galway Statement on Atlantic Research Cooperation 2013.pdf

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – http://www.ioc-unesco.org/

EU Directorate of Research and Innovation – http://ec.europa.eu/research/

EU Horizon 2020 Research & Development Grants – http://www.2020-horizon.com/

Ocean Literacy in Portugal – http://www.cienciaviva.pt/

College of Co-exploration – http://www.coexploration.org/

University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography – http://omp.gso.uri.edu/ompweb/

URI Coastal Institute – http://web.uri.edu/coastalinstitute/

Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence – http://www.cosee.net

Inner Space Center – http://www.innerspacecenter.org/

Coordination Office for the Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance – https://www.collectiveip.com/grants/NSF:1331592

Flanders Marine Institute – http://www.vliz.be/en/mission

TOL Strategic Implementation Plan (Draft) – http://www.coexploration.org/oceanliteracy/atlantic/taolworkshop

Vision Statement on Ocean Literacy, and Atlantic Ocean Cooperation between European Union, United States of America & Canada – 10.5281/zenodo.11864

 

[1] DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.11864

 

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