The ocean has always been a large part of my life. I grew up a ten minute walk from the sea on England’s south coast. I could see the Isle of Wight from the top floor of my junior school on a clear day. The ocean has always been there for me.
It’s been there when I was a sulking teenager skulking along the clifftop after dark, lamenting why my life was so hard and awful (spoiler: it wasn’t). When I went to Plymouth University, it became an even greater central point in my life. Not only were many of my friends ocean scientists and marine biologists, but we’d often meander down to the Hoe and slump on the grass, captivated and calmed by the constant, effortless ocean.
When I set sail on what was to be a 20,000 mile ocean voyage around the Atlantic and Caribbean, the ocean wasn’t just a part of my life anymore, it was my life. When I began voyaging, I quickly realised that though we’d long shared a close proximity, I hardly knew the ocean at all. I’m still learning about it, how it works and what our impact is upon it.
So I’m amazed that the wonderful Ocean Conservation Trust — the masterminds behind the conservation-centred National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth — have come together with the Connect Academy Trust to create an ocean curriculum that is being rolled out across five of Plymouth’s primary schools this September.
I’m not amazed that they’re doing it — it’s the kind of wonderful thing they would do. I’m amazed that it’s never been done before. I’m amazed that ocean education hasn’t been a part of our curriculum at all, that it’s being left to charities and biologists sick to death of watching us trash our shorelines and seas.
An ocean curriculum
It’s hard to see the downside to bringing ocean subjects to the forefront of primary education. For a start, children love the sea and coast with a singular obsession bordering on the pathological. It’s an innate passion and exactly the passion that parents long for their children to show in their academic lives. Well, here it is folks! Children are entranced by the sea as many of us are, deep down.
‘Despite the Ocean representing the largest living space on the planet and being essential for the survival of all of us, it is notably missing from the current English National Curriculum, which is something we, as an Ocean conservation charity, feel needs to change. The UK is a national and global leader in marine science, and Ocean related teaching should be an essential part of the core curriculum offering for all schools,’ says the head of Conservation Education and Communications for the Ocean Conservation Trust, Nicola Bridge.
And it’s not just opening up this aquatic world to children and showing them its intricacies, strengths, weaknesses and our responsibility towards it. Teaching this vast subject also shows children paths for their own future. As a ten year old, I had no concept of jobs in the marine sector other than maybe scuba instructor — but that was pretty nebulous too.
By embarking on an ocean curriculum and ‘getting a cross-curricular Ocean themed learning programme into Plymouth schools will be a huge step in the right direction — not just for Ocean conservation, but for the blue economy too. There are many STEM career opportunities related to the Ocean and ensuring that school children are made aware of these from an early age will broaden their horizons when choosing a career path to follow later in life. We hope that many other schools will follow suit in future,’ says Stu Higgs, Schools Programme Manager for the Ocean Conservation Trust.