Coming to Terms with Ocean Literacy

Sarah MacNeil, Carie Hoover, Julia Ostertag, Lilia Yumagulova, Lisa (Diz) Glithero


The term “ocean literacy” originated in the early 2000s from American ocean science researchers and educators to strengthen ocean science education in the national curriculum. Worldwide, it has been adapted to reflect a more multidisciplinary approach to understanding humans’ relationships with the ocean. Research from the Understanding Ocean Literacy in Canada national study (2019-2020) (Ammendolia et al., 2020; Glithero, 2020; Hoover, 2020; MacNeil, 2020; Ostertag & Ammendolia, 2020; Yumagulova, 2020) identified ocean literacy as a limiting term, unable to capture the scope of Canadian experiences with the ocean continuum (land, freshwater, coastal areas, sea ice, open ocean), and inadequate in encapsulating different worldviews and across different linguistic communities. We discuss the challenges of contextualizing an international term within Canada and present ideas to move toward more inclusive terminology, examining the challenges still ahead in developing relevant terminology and bridging with international initiatives.

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