COSEE Ocean Communities in Education And social Networks (COSEE OCEAN) sponsored an inquiry group to examine the current state of ocean science literacy, writ broadly, and to provide an expert perspective on how ocean literacy can be further developed and enhanced, especially through less-recognized channels such as opportunistic learning, the private and “third” sectors, and the enormously varied activities under the heading of "informal science education". The ten authors of this report worked together for two years to find and review a range of issues and resources for current and potential ocean science literacy providers, both professional and volunteer, and provide an assessment of what the trajectory of current ocean science education needs are, in order to be successful in the future.
Several chapters provide a survey of useful materials and websites, while others offer ideas we believe will be new for many readers, including opportunities and unfamiliar venues for carrying out this enterprise. Included are chapters depicting a perhaps plethora of channels for increasing ocean science literacy, both in school and out of school. Other chapters discuss the societal contexts for using these channels, which include ideas for potential funding sources and cultural partners. We wrote this report with several audiences in mind: the professional educators in the COSEE network; formal and informal educators who are looking for ways to incorporate ocean sciences in the work they do; and policy makers in both science and education who are concerned with using all available channels to improve the public understanding of such major concerns as global climate change, energy sources and uses, the health of ecosystems local and global, and natural resources such as seafood.
The COSEE OCEAN Inquiry Group sought to survey existing resources related to ocean literacy and ocean science education in order to generate a “snapshot” view of the current state of ocean science education as we see it. Our purpose in doing this was to offer observations about opportunities and needs. In order to accomplish this goal, we needed to classify similar characteristics across a variety of organizing categories based on intended audiences; to establish what content is covered for differing audiences; and to identify gaps within current ocean science education. After much discussion, this task was divided into eight themes: Informal Science Education, Opportunistic Education, the Formal Education sectors of Standards, K-12, Colleges and Universities, and the societal stakeholders of ocean science literacy in the Public Sector, the Blue Economy, and the Third Sector.
We note that, despite the incredible wealth of resources uncovered in our study, the lack of substantive improvement in ocean policy and the protracted lack of personal change in behaviors that are causing deleterious impacts to the ocean prevent us from concluding that the current suite of resources are sufficient to tackle the gap between knowledge about ocean science and reasoned decision making. To that end, the final Conclusions section of the report focuses on some of the concerns we have in making claims that current best practices should be replicated in the future. This last section represents some of the concerns we have raised in various other sections and indicates that ocean scientists may need to consider that some of the ways the public wishes to engage with ocean science are not adequately addressed by current approaches. We suggest that a large part of the problem may be a combination of the abstract distant relationship people have with the ocean and the lack of salience that ocean science is perceived to have in daily life. We suggest that we should not assume with any confidence that current practices are capable of improving ocean science literacy, and we express concern that it may be time to rethink the entire way this science is being presented to the public in order to affect meaningful decisions that can protect the ocean on which we all depend.
Alex Shimm, Intern, Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), Silver Spring MD, who assisted with the Informal Science Education chapter; Peg Steffen, NOAA-National Ocean Service for assistance on digital badges and serious gaming; Demetrius Lutz, Science Instructor at the New York Hall of Science for assistance on the blue economy and third sector chapters, the Marine Photo Bank for their contribution of images for this report and all the members of the COSEE OCEAN group, in particular Catherine Cramer and Kristin Uiterwyk, assisted with overall comments on drafts and organization and annotating of meetings.
The following educators were instrumental in identifying and providing information concerning additional resources, including online education resources and the challenges and opportunities for incorporating online curriculum in the classroom: Liesl Hotaling, Senior Research Engineer, College of Marine Sciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL; Annette deCharon, Senior Marine Education Scientist, University of Maine, Walpole, ME; Diana Payne, Education Coordinator, Connecticut Sea Grant Program UCONN, Avery Point, Groton, CT; Janice McDonnell, Associate Professor, Department of 4-H Youth Development, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; Elizabeth LaPorte, Director of Education and Communication Services, Michigan Sea Grant Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and Nette Pletcher, Director of Conservation Education, Association of Zoos & Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD.
mission is to leverage and connect existing networks and communities to reach ocean scientists and under-represented minority students in urban school districts.