The Lawrence Hall of Science
The public science center of the University of California, Berkeley.
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The ocean is easily the Earth’s defining feature, impacting the lives of every living thing that calls our planet home. The ocean provides the oxygen we breathe, controls the weather, and is critical to understanding and fighting climate change. But how much of this do students know? An ongoing curricular project at The Lawrence improves students’ and educators’ understanding of the global impact the ocean’s health has on our planet.
Last November, a team of curriculum developers from The Lawrence traveled to Taiwan to broadly promote ocean science learning across the island nation and assist with implementing their educational materials in Mandarin. The Marine Activities, Resources, and Education (MARE) team partnered with educators, experts, and government officials to share their expertise and the importance of Ocean Literacy for students at every level.
The Lawrence’s MARE project has long been at the forefront of Ocean Literacy education, spearheading the development of standards-aligned principles every student should know by the time they graduate from secondary school. These seven essential principles of Ocean Literacy, co-developed by MARE, scientists, educators, and policymakers across the country provide a framework for young people to learn about the ocean, its features, and its influence.
“We brought together scientists, educators, classroom teachers, people from aquariums, and government agencies, to agree about what every global citizen should know about the ocean before they graduate high school,” said Craig Strang, who founded MARE in 1985. “Every person should be able to describe how the ocean influences them and understand their impact on the ocean, both positive and negative.”
This Ocean Literacy framework forms the foundation for curricula and other learning materials, including the Ocean Sciences Sequences (OSS) kits developed by the MARE team in partnership with Rutgers University and other curriculum developers at The Lawrence. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, each of its sequences for grades 3-5 and 6-8 consist of three thematic units, exploring topics like ocean currents, biodiversity, climate change, and more. The learning materials are flexible and designed to be taught independently or as a progression of units.
“The OSS materials were an exciting opportunity to capture the ideas of Ocean Literacy in a way that students could really make sense of them,” said Sarah Pedemonte, Professional Learning Lead at The Lawrence. “Students answer questions like what is life like in the ocean, and how are humans connected to it?”
The trip to Taiwan coincided with the implementation of OSS in schools across Taiwan, as the MARE team worked closely with the National Taiwan Ocean University, the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology (NMMST), and the National Academy of Marine Research and Ocean Affairs Council to support the curriculum rollout. In addition, MARE staff presented their work developing and applying the Ocean Literacy framework to Taiwanese policymakers, educators, and students.
MARE staff also led a workshop for K-12 teachers, principals, and informal educators at NMMST. After observing an elementary school class engaging in an activity from OSS, participants learned more about the curriculum and the research and development underpinning it. These teachers walked away from the workshop with a better understanding of how the curriculum works and were granted full access to translated online OSS materials.
“As I talked to people [in Taiwan] and made connections to their lives and the ocean, I think the students will be very excited to experience these materials,” said Pedemonte.
Moving forward, the MARE team and their partners will leverage their networks to continue teaching ocean sciences to more students, regardless of geography. The hope is that every student across the globe understands that the ocean takes care of us, and we need to take care of the ocean in return.