ERIC Identifier: ED482728
Publication Date: 2003
Author: Fortner, Rosanne W.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental
Teaching about Oceans. ERIC Digest.
You need not have an ocean nearby to teach about the ocean. Teachers
classrooms have for decades turned to the integrated concepts of the
sea to help them
teach topics as obvious as density and biodiversity but as varied as
industrial design, and international law. The large number of magnet
marine themes is evidence that teachers believe oceanic learning can
enhance all parts
of the curriculum. Indeed, one highly successful program uses the ocean
as an integrating context across disciplines and subject matter (McDonnell,
another has used explored linkages between marine science and science
standards (New Jersey Sea Grant College Program, 2000). This Digest
is designed to share a rationale for teaching about oceans and briefly introduce the
kinds of resources
available to assist with such efforts.
As a self-designated marine educator living in central Ohio, I still
challenge people to
find a topic in the school curriculum that cannot be taught using a
While my dreams of waking to sea sounds are most often fulfilled through
use of nature
recordings, I nevertheless persist in bringing the sea into my work
with teachers. It's
simple. Anyone can teach about the sea if they have one right outside.
It takes a
creative and determined spirit to teach about the ocean whenever and
many opportunities arise, but there are many resources available to
those up to the
challenge (Fortner, 1998).
WHY TEACH ABOUT OCEANS?
Some have suggested that our planet should really be called Ocean, because
far more ocean than there is earth. The absolutely overpowering dimensions
ocean demand that it have curricular attention. Oceans cover 70% of
and contain 95% of the life-bearing space. Oceans interact with other
parts of the Earth system in major ways: they circulate heat and thus influence
world climate; life came from the sea and its biological diversity is greater
than that of the land; ocean forces shape the land, daily adding and subtracting
measurable parts of the areas where over 50% of humans choose to live.
The importance of the oceans to global conditions is reflected in the National
Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) that include
content standards related to the ocean's role in natural systems, climatic
conditions, life's diversity, and Earth's geological history.
The lure of the sea has given us the literature of danger and mystery,
the artistry of
coral colors and breaching whales, the promise of untapped resources,
and the history
book stories that ignite our passion for exploration. We need the sea,
and wherever we are in the world that sea is part of our sense of place.
Teachers can use this natural
affinity for the sea by using oceanography as a theme to integrate
school subjects and
develop active learning opportunities (Brown & Hansen, 2000).
Yet the wonders of the sea have not protected it, and many global environmental
concerns have examples if not origin in the sea. SeaWeb, an organization
excellent information for making people aware of the sea, lists eight
1. The discharge of pollutants from various sources on land and from
2. Fisheries issues, including overexploitation, by-catch, and impacts
of fishing gear.
3. Nutrient enrichment from fossil fuel burning, agriculture practice,
4. Loss or disturbance of coastal habitats and resulting population
effects on sea life.
5. Introduction of non-native species where they did not exist before.
6. Destruction and degradation of estuaries.
7. Reduction in stratospheric ozone, with increased UVB impacts on larval
8. Global climate change.
If we are to protect the resources of the ocean and secure for the future
ecosystem benefits we now collect from it, such as oxygen production,
and climate moderation, more people need to realize their responsibility
for the health of the seas. Education is the answer.
WHERE CAN I GET RESOURCES FOR TEACHING ABOUT THE OCEAN?
For educators not having direct access to coastal facilities, three
alternative types of
resources are suggested: people, libraries, and the Internet.
1. People. Who is doing marine education in my area?
People who teach about the ocean are excited about sharing this experience.
members of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) welcome
newcomers to their regional and state chapters and to the national organization.
Members of NMEA and its chapters are teachers from preschool through graduate
school, and include those who work in public aquaria and coastal science
centers as well. The top marine educators of the world come to NMEA to
learn more, and each year the annual summer conference is host to a number
of visitors from around the globe. Visit the NMEA Internet site [http://www.marine-ed.org]
to locate the nearest chapter and learn about this year's conference.
The National Sea Grant College Program (a part of NOAA) has 30 coastal
Each has an education component, and many deal with K-12 education.
Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H do for Land Grant institutions,
the Sea Grant
Educators Network is responsible for making the research done by Sea
accessible to learners of all ages. Sea Grant education is approached
the 30 coastal programs, but you can meet most of the educators through
2. Libraries. What print materials are available for marine education?
"Current: The Journal of Marine Education" is the journal of NMEA.
Each issue contains information about oceanic topics, the "sea stars" who
are leaders of marine education, and classroom-ready activities. If you
want to use real drift data to teach about how a spill of bathtub toys
taught oceanographers new information about Pacific currents, you can find
that information in this journal. A special issue (Volume 15(1) in 1998)
focused on the influence of Sea Grant on marine education and what Sea
Grant does in many arenas of education: K-12, university level, informal,
teacher education, and outreach to private and government sectors.
ERIC Resources: Searching the ERIC database with the descriptors "marine
education" or "oceanography" provides a wealth of resources from research
articles to classroom activities. The following examples from recent years
indicate the range of information available.
* Scuba Science (Glickstein, 2000)
* Connecting to the Standards through marine science (New Jersey Sea
* Island of the Sharks activity (Gowell, 1999)
* CD-ROM: Our crowded shores. Balancing growth and resource protection
* Best practices in marine and ocean science education (McDonnell,
* Investigating sand on the coast of Oregon and Washington (Komar,
* Three Forms of Assessment of Prior Knowledge, and Improved Performance Following an Enrichment Programme, of English Second Language Biology
within the Context of a Marine Theme (Feltham & Downs, 2002)
* Small Enclosures for Aquatic Ecology Experiments (Galford, 2000)
* Crayfish Investigations: Inquiry in Action for Grades 4-8 (Martin-Hanson,
* Oyster reef communities in the Chesapeake Bay. A primer. (Harding,
et al, 1999)
* The coral reef alphabet book for American Samoa. (Madrigal, 2001)
3. Internet. What are the key sites for marine education? The primary information source for marine education is The BRIDGE, a
project of NMEA, Sea Grant, and the National Ocean Partnership Program.
designed to bring together teachers, scientists, industry and academics.
In less than ten
years of active development, The Bridge has become a comprehensive
accurate and useful information on global, national, and regional marine
Saying that it is a collection of web sites for ocean teaching does
not do justice to the
value and quality of this award-winning site. It is a very teacher-friendly
whether you seek information on a particular science topic, or activities
for a certain
grade level, or material specific to your region. A popular monthly
feature is the Data
Port, in which real ocean data sets are accessed in a classroom activity.
available on sea turtle nest mapping, zebra mussel population growth,
bloom distribution, how shipwrecks can teach us about ocean currents
characteristics, and more.
People resources are an important part of the BRIDGE project as well.
For example, all web sites are reviewed by at least one teacher and one
scientist before being linked.
This improves the likelihood that the information is credible and pedagogically
appropriate. Teachers who want to help with this critical review process
can sign up to
be TROLLs (Teacher Reviewers of On-Line Learning)! TROLLs live under
the BRIDGE, of course, and keep out riffraff, web sites in this case. The
BRIDGE rewards its TROLLs with incentives and acknowledgement on a special
page. The science reviewers are STARs (Science and Technical Advisory Reviewers).
STARs protect legitimate users from groups with agendas, dot-coms, and
hobbyists who are just learning to make web pages.
In addition to being used by teachers, the BRIDGE is used by scientists
teachers with current information. Announcements are posted of special
courses, laboratory opportunities, and student events. The Resource
connections to research laboratories, virtual expeditions, and national
programs. If you
have difficulty finding information on the BRIDGE, use the Scuttlebutt
section to ask for it. You can access BRIDGE resources from the NMEA home
page, or go directly to it at http://www.vims.edu/bridge.
SeaWeb does not have the strong teacher or scientist involvement that
does, but its Internet resources are substantial nevertheless. At http://www.seaweb.org
you will find great amounts of information and credible links to the
environmental issues. This organization has the public opinion survey
supports the continued need for ocean education. A link to SeaWeb from
includes audio broadcasts from famous people who study the sea
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is the science
that deals most directly with the oceans. It has a well-organized home
information about ongoing science, including fisheries topics, global
severe weather events, and special places such as marine sanctuaries,
zones, and the like. Visit NOAA for your science updates at http://www.noaa.gov/.
Aquarius, an underwater project hosted by NOAA, can be accessed at
There are many other ocean-related Web resources intended for teachers
Following are three examples:
* Planet Ocean, DiscoverySchool
* Ocean Planet, Smithsonian
* Sustainable Seas, National Marine Sanctuaries
Brown, S. W., & Hansen, T. M. (2000). Connecting middle school,
oceanography, and the real world. "Science Scope," 24 (3), 16-19.
Fortner, R. W. (1998). Sea Grant: Enhancing K-12 education. "Current:
The Journal of Marine Education," 15 (1), 8-13.
McDonnell, J. D. (2001). Best practices in marine and coastal science
Lessons learned from a National Estuarine Research Reserve. "Marine
Science Education," 173-182. [Available online as a pdf file:
National Research Council. (1996). "National science education standards."
Washington, DC: National Academy Press. [Available online at:
New Jersey Sea Grant College Program. (2000). "Connecting to the Standards
through marine science." Fort Hancock, NJ: New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.
[ED 449 011]