Ocean education is central to ocean action

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As part of this initiative, the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling on the world to join the revolution in finding innovative solutions in ocean science.

UN News spoke to experts inside and outside the UN system to uncover the importance of ocean literacy.

Empower people

Ocean literacy is generally defined as understanding the influence of the ocean on you and your influence on the ocean, according to Francesca Santoro, head of ocean education at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. (IOC) of UNESCO.

However, she explains that the definition goes beyond that.

“It’s really about giving tools to people so that they can better use their knowledge of the oceans and become more responsible and able to make decisions that involve ocean resources, in a more informed way. It’s really about being able to understand how much the oceans influence our lives and how we can influence the ocean positively and negatively,” Ms. Santoro explained.

As the focal point for ocean science within the UN system, the IOC leads the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), and supports ocean research institutions around the world to enhance public engagement.

“The IOC works primarily to strengthen international collaboration in ocean science and ocean research – because no single country can undertake research across all ocean basins alone,” Santoro continued.

A pivotal moment

The Decade of Ocean Science is an opportunity to change the state of the ocean for the next 100 years.

Earlier this year, UNESCO launched a campaign to encourage people to join the global movement “Ocean Generation”.

The idea is to borrow a transformative discourse to connect citizens with ocean knowledge and inspire them to take action to restore, protect and live better with the ocean.

In an interview with UN News, Vinicius Grunberg Lindoso, Head of Communications at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, described how you can make a difference at this critical time.

Students, active agents of change

Some IOC flagship programs examine the particular impacts of climate change on the ocean and how the ocean can be seen as the best ally in the fight against climate change.

Working closely with schools, teachers and educators, UNESCO uses the results of its ocean research to develop lesson plans.

“We are developing a number of resources – booklets, videos or games – and using them to work with schools around the world to engage people from an early age, from primary school to high school. We use an approach that not only includes learning goals, but also what we call social-emotional learning and behavioral learning goals, because we want students to become active agents of change, so that they can take part in initiatives in favor of the protection of the oceans”, underlined Ms. Santoro.

blue schools

In Portugal, co-host with Kenya of the United Nations Ocean Conference, from June 27 to July 1, the Oceano Azul Foundation plays an important role in the development of literacy and conservation practices.

By working for the climate education of children in Portugal, the Foundation aims to ensure that more children are informed about ocean issues and their impact on the ocean. So when they become decision makers, whatever profession they choose, they will have an important role to play.

Samuel Collins, program manager at Oceano Azul, told UN News how the initiative works.

“We need to deliver information in a way that it is digestible for different age groups. But given the importance of these issues and the impact they will have on the near future of current generations, we have a responsibility to deliver certain information to young people”.

In collaboration with Oceanario de Lisboa, Oceano Azul has implemented a program aimed at educating the “blue generation”, training teachers and providing them with the curriculum and resources necessary to spread the message from the first cycle of education .

“They will do math, but they will talk about fish, they will learn French by talking about the ocean, they will do history, but integrating oceanography, so it’s just a reinforcement of the school curriculum, looking through blue optics. They come to the Oceanario, do lots of fantastic activities and get excited because a healthy ocean has enormous potential and it’s important to nurture it,” adds Collins.

The program aims to raise awareness among all children residing in Portugal about the importance of the ocean, with a focus on the 5-9 year old group.

According to the Foundation, using Portugal as a starting point for literacy will nevertheless make it possible to replicate actions in other countries, particularly in Portuguese-speaking countries and developing countries.

Lagoon Kindergarten

Not far away in Italy, Venice has for centuries illustrated the dynamic interaction between man and nature, highlighting its ability to serve as a model for other similar ecosystems.

Due to its ideal characteristics and UNESCO World Heritage status, “Venice and its Lagoon” was chosen as the implementation site for the pilot edition of the “Kindergarten of the Lagoon” initiative. launched last May.

This new educational program, based on promoting the principles of ocean literacy and interaction with the environment, aims to foster a close connection between children and nature, through outdoor activities and interactions with the local community.

Thematic courses are given to classes of 25 kindergarten pupils. These courses, which call upon outdoor education, aim to discover the ecosystem of the lagoon. They are followed by creative stimulation and drawing at the end of each lesson.

In partnership with the Prada group, UNESCO hopes to empower young people to become the future Ocean Generation.

“The international community must make education one of the pillars of its action for the ocean and engage in education to help the young people of today become the responsible and aware citizens of tomorrow”, according to Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office.

Lisbon: go to scale

The ocean education community will come together in Lisbon, Portugal, on the occasion of the United Nations Ocean Conference, to ensure that ocean education is seen as a central part of the action for the oceans.

“At the last United Nations Ocean Conference [en 2017, à New York], ocean education was in its infancy. Today we can truly demonstrate that we have been able to achieve important results, such as promoting the presence of ocean education in formal education and we have a growing network of blue schools around the world. But we need to scale up, ensure that ocean education initiatives are in place around the world, and strengthen collaboration to share good practices among different actors,” Ms. Santoro told UN Info.

On the first day of the 2022 Conference in Lisbon, there will be a high-level meeting of the Ocean Decade Alliance, followed by an Ocean Decade Forum on June 30, to convey a message of action, partnership and inclusion.

Ms. Santoro also expects to “see our community include more and more stakeholders”.

“At the moment we have mostly scientists and educators, but I think we need, for example, journalists, media, to help us make sure the ocean is in the media, and that people are more aware of the importance of the ocean for the future of this planet,” she added.

The creative community is “crucial”

UNESCO has planned a series of events for the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, including exhibits such as the Ocean Decade Creative Exhibition in the city’s main square and an “Ocean Generation” concert. at the Rock in Rio festival on June 26. These events engage the global creative community and aim to raise awareness of ocean science and conservation.

For Ms. Santoro, collaboration with the creative community is “crucial, especially because we are more aware that our emotions motivate our actions. The fact of working [plus en profondeur] with artists, photographers, strengthens people’s ability to feel more connected to the ocean or to rediscover how much we are connected to it. The creative community really helps us find that emotional part of our connection to the ocean.”

We must therefore work together, scientists and artists, to co-design and co-develop projects, says the head of ocean education at the IOC.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a scientist, a journalist, an artist, a policy maker or someone working in the private sector. We should all come together and have a common vision and goal,” Ms. Santoro concluded.

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