The Many Currents of Ocean Literacy: A Case Study of Ocean Wise Programming

Maria Cristina Albuquerque, David B. Zandvliet


Recent scientific studies demonstrate conclusively that our planet faces an ocean crisis and efforts to mitigate this crisis should be addressed urgently. As many species are lost to extinction, conservation steps need to be taken and are indicated by targets such as those outlined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainability and Development. Similarly, a clear agenda for ocean education should be encouraged as the first step toward broader conservation goals. Recently, the concept of ocean literacy has been described as a way to help communities and individuals develop a more holistic understanding of their influences on the ocean and the ocean’s influences on their lives. Still, ocean literacy has not yet been fully enacted in the K–12 curricula in Canada, and many environmental education programs are taking the lead to provide program participants with a broader understanding of the term. In this study, we provide a broad overview of ocean literacy initiatives as enacted by the Ocean Wise NGO. We examine how these have influenced the diffusion of ocean literacy in British Columbia. In our paper, we include a case study highlighting the diversity of Ocean Wise programs to provide a broad view on activities from the perspective of program participants. We selected a range of education programs for data collection, including school visits to the Vancouver Aquarium, off-site mobile programming (with AquaVan), and teacher professional development programs, both on-site and via an online learning platform. We explore what each initiative offers students with regard to connection to the ocean. Through an instrumental case study design, we combine qualitative approaches with observations, focus groups, and interviews to describe many currents of ocean literacy flowing from Ocean Wise and its broad and diverse ocean literacy programming.

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