Young people will one day run the world, making important decisions about the environment they live in. But will they care enough to protect the ocean? Teaching about ocean issues and hosting a World Oceans Day event at your school can help shape their future selves, and there are great benefits now as well!
Young people care, and matter
Young people have more power than they think. Research into American households has shown us that parents listen to their children about the environment, and believe that the younger generation are good sources of information about this topic. Parents may look to their children on these issues, which gives students a lot of influence on their home’s conservation-related behaviors. If we want to help the world, your students are the perfect people to lead the charge.
Our research also shows that youth are already interested in environmental issues: the majority of youth under 20 agree ‘confronting climate change” should be a top priority for the government. Youth have the highest level of concern over the world’s oceans, and are most likely to want to take action to help. However, many feel that they need to know more about the issue. This is where schools come in!
Photo: Ranger Partnerships, Kaitiaki Manutataki
How to Communicate about the Ocean
Young people care about the environment, but how do you start that conversation? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are some general ways to approach ocean issues with different age groups from educator David Sobel.
For ages 3-7 years, it is better to focus on empathy towards the natural world instead of anything too overwhelming or scary. By creating attachments to ocean creatures, children will learn to care about this world that looks so different, but is still connected to our own. Engage children with stories, songs, and games about the ocean and the creatures that live in it.
For ages 7-11 years, it is important to expand their knowledge and focus on explorationof the natural world. Let children of this age spend time outside and interact with their natural environment. If you can take a field trip to the beach or local watershed, it would benefit the children greatly. Teach them about how vast the ocean is and how we haven’t even explored it all yet.
With tweens and teens, you can start talking to them about environmental problems that threaten the ocean, and how we can help. It’s important to emphasis the agency your students have and how they can help the world. Engage them with interactive activities that allow them to think of ways to make the world more “ocean friendly.”
Photo: Fundacion Temaiken
Using the internet and technology can be a great way to engage teens on ocean action. Perhaps start a class ocean blog, where each student must write a few short posts about an ocean issue that is interesting to them. Hands on learning, and experimenting in the “real world” is also quite helpful to reach youth.
You can also implement a World Oceans Day celebration in your school that everyone can enjoy. Not sure where to start? Check out what 10 schools around the globe did in 2014 to celebrate! You can also go here to find resources to teach about the planet in middle, and high school classrooms.
Hosting an event like World Oceans Day in your school can lead to action in your students. Youth have been some of the leaders in the environmental awareness charge. Your celebration can big as small as having an “ocean day” in class, or as big as a month-long or semester-long project! Here are some examples and resources:
Photo: USM Scuba Diving Club’s Ocean Awareness Week!