The Blog Aquatic » education News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 When Did Ocean Education Get Political? Thu, 28 Jun 2012 13:57:43 +0000 Guest Blogger Credit:


Partnering with zoos, aquariums and museums on ocean education is not exactly what you would call a job-killing initiative or international plot to take over the ocean. And yet, this is how critics have billed the National Ocean Policy.

Under the Policy, government agencies are encouraged to “increase ocean and coastal literacy by expanding the accessibility and use of ocean content in formal and informal educational programming for students.” By teaming up with kid-friendly institutions like aquariums, zoos and museums, agencies like NOAA can provide the latest, cutting-edge ocean science for teachers, students and the general public. But Congressional attacks against the National Ocean Policy might threaten these kinds of non-controversial services – even though most of these services long pre-date the National Ocean Policy itself.

The House Appropriations Committee is currently considering a bill that blocks implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Check out our post from last week when the bill was first put forward.  As we’ve written before, this could affect services that people and businesses have come to rely on.

As our Government Relations Director Emily Woglom said:

“It is unfortunate that critics are playing knee-jerk politics with an ocean policy that’s about saving time, money and the source of livelihood for millions of Americans.  This is about ensuring that our natural resources are used efficiently and effectively so our coastal economies, now and in the future, flourish.

“Attacks on ocean protections are hyperbolic at best, hysterical at worst.  Blocking funding now will jeopardize existing jobs and important services.”

The National Ocean Policy’s approach to protecting our ocean, where coordination and collaboration are key, is simply common sense.


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Sanibel Sea School Aims to Transform, Not Just Teach Mon, 09 Apr 2012 17:58:58 +0000 Sarah van Schagen Child examining a seawall at low tide

Photo by Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School

People fall in love with the ocean in many different ways: surfing, boating, scuba diving, beach-walking. Sanibel Sea School, a day-school program on Sanibel Island, Florida, aims to help young people fall in the love with the ocean through intellectual discovery.

The school is the brain-child of marine biology professor J. Bruce Neill and his wife, Evelyn, who have high hopes that some day all people will value, understand and care for the ocean. It’s a “broad-reaching, idyllic goal,” Bruce says, which is why they’re focused on a much more manageable mission to “improve the ocean’s future one person at a time.”

Or in this case, up to 30 young people at a time. Called “college for 8-year-olds,” Sanibel Sea School offers students aged 6 to 13 two half-day courses a day focused on topics like gastropod mollusks and mangrove forests.

But instructors at Sanibel Sea School don’t just lecture students about mangroves; they take them out on field trips to experience them firsthand. “We taste them, we smell them, we slog around in the mud,” Bruce says. “We get extraordinarily lost in a giant jungle of mangroves.”

This experiential learning helps solidify in the students’ minds what they’ve seen and heard. “When we discover things out there in nature that we didn’t know existed, it changes who we are,” Bruce says. “It becomes transformative.”

When class is over, students receive a diploma that not only certifies that they’ve completed the course but highlights the five most important facts they learned that day. These take-home messages are an important launching pad for a parent-child conversation once the students have left Sanibel, Bruce says. And it’s a great way to educate parents too.

Kids in snorkel gear examining an ocean critter

Photo by Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School

“What we’re really trying to instill in kids is a passion for discovery and knowledge,” Bruce says. “We want them to go away knowing that there’s more to discover about the ocean and that they’re the ones that can do it – all they have to do is wade out into it.”

One of the group’s frequent outdoor activities involves paddling surfboards out to a buoy offshore. But the paddlers get much more than a chance at winning the coveted “golden coconut” award in this relay race; they get an intimate experience with a vast, deep ocean that for many of them is a source of fear before it becomes something they want to protect.

Conservation messages are an important part of Sanibel’s curriculum. During field trips, students are asked to take five minutes of their time to collect trash from the natural environment. Instructors use this as a learning tool, measuring and quantifying the litter to allow the students to see the impact they made by cleaning up and helping them understand what types of materials are commonly left behind.

“Our goal is to do transformative education,” Bruce says, “where it really changes who you are and how you see yourself fitting in to the rest of the environment, to the rest of the world, to the rest of the community.”

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