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Oceans education subject knowledge (6 of 6)

This is number six in our follow-up posts to to XL Catlin Oceans Teacher Academy, sharing oceans education subject knowledge with teachers.

Ocean acidification is one of the processes threatening marine life and is included in the Coral Oceans and Frozen Oceans resources. This video shows two simple experiments for your classroom to show the process of ocean acidification and its impact on marine life…

Oceans education subject knowledge (5 of 6)

This is number five in our follow-up posts to to XL Catlin Oceans Teacher Academy, sharing oceans education subject knowledge with teachers.

The Incredible Edible Polyp activity is designed to be used in oceans education, and specifically with the Coral Oceans primary scheme of work, but has proved incredibly popular with all age groups and teachers alike. Here’s a video on how to make your own edible polyps with your class and a little twist on the classic anatomy lesson…

Oceans education subject knowledge

Here are two videos to introduce your classes to the work of the Catlin Ocean Expeditions. The first is a highlight video including clips and photos from the Catlin Arctic Survey in 2011:

The second is a Day in the Life video filmed with the Catlin Seaview Survey Shallow Reef team in the Bahamas in 2013 to give you a taste for a day in the life of a marine biologist:

Oceans education subject knowledge (3 of 6)

As a follow-up to the XL Catlin Oceans Teacher Academy, here is one of the videos that is a great introduction to teaching oceans in the classroom and to brush up on a bit of subject knowledge.

This video from the great team at One World One Ocean is a brilliant introduction to the ecosystem goods and services that the ocean provides and a summary of the potential and current human impact on our marine environment…

Oceans education subject knowledge

When ocean currents go bad and paleoclimatologists become Hollywood heros, the trailer for The Day After Tomorrow and indeed the opening 10 minutes of the film if you can get your hands on a copy of the film, make an exciting and extremely exaggerated introduction to the world of thermohaline circulation and the impact of the Arctic ice on the gulf stream…

Catlin Ocean Academy for Teachers (follow-up 1 of 6)

Dr Helen Findlay helped with this great animation on ocean acidification by pupils at the Ridgeway School in Plymouth. We hope you meet a great range of plasticine characters who can help explain ocean acidification and its impacts to your classroom.

Climate change education debate

Below is the transcript of a conversation I had with my incredibly precocious seven year old nephew. We were gathered for Easter lunch and he asked me about the debate surrounding the proposals for a slimmed down mention of climate change in the curriculum.

Peter: So, Uncle Jamie, tell me what all the fuss about this climate change education thing is.

Uncle Jamie: Well, Peter, there are plans afoot to give schools more flexibility to teach climate change in a way that suits them, and to reduce the explicit mention of how carbon dioxide affects the Earth system.

P: Hold on. Tell me more about this climate change malarkey.

UJ: Well, there is overwhelming evidence from a lot of scientists who say that by burning fossil fuels and various other things, that we are altering the behaviour of the climate system and that these changes could have catastrophic impacts on all life on the planet including humans.

P: Sounds bad. So what steps are being taken?

UJ: At the moment, we have decided to make the problem worse through basing our exit from this recession (we’ll have to leave that topic for another conversation) on greater growth and further exploitation of natural resources.

P: Are you telling me that, you are going to teach me that the world is completely up the creek in a few years’ time and adults have decided to make the problem worse and you want to tell seven year olds about this? That’s a bit of a downer.

UJ: I know, I know. There are a lot of people who feel that the best way of dealing with this issue is to tell you how bad it is and do nothing about it. Makes complete sense, no?

P: But I read all these articles in the newspaper. It reminds me of the Christmas pantomime. “Humans are causing irreversible climate change.” “Oh no they’re not!” “Oh yes they are!” I thought you were supposed to be the adults in this situation.

UJ: Yes. I can see how this might be confusing. There is an issue of natural variability and various other trends to take into consideration, but seeing as you’re seven, we think that the best thing to do is to teach you the “Oh yes they are” bit, and leave out the reasoning and the reasons why the “Oh no they’re not!” people aren’t right.

P: Still, it’s a bit of a downer, putting all this responsibility for saving the world on the shoulders of a seven year old.

UJ: I see. You may have a point there. What would your ideas for this be?

P: I think you have to consider three areas: rigour, agency and stewardship [I did say he was precocious]. I think that the best place to start would be stewardship, then agency and finally rigour.

UJ: Can you go into these three areas in a bit more depth?

P: Certainly. By stewardship, I mean the values and skills needed to look after the natural environment. This could be anything from planting and caring for a tree in the school grounds; monitoring a rock pool and cleaning up litter; or being a junior warden for a local park or wild place. I imagine that you’ve read the 2009 ‘Report by the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change’, that shows a clear correlation between developing a local and personal relationship with nature and engaging in broader environmental and climate issues later in life.

UJ: Gotcha.

P: Love not loss, Uncle Jamie. Love not loss. You have read the IUCN work on this haven’t you? I know it relates more to the protection of charismatic megafauna and their supporting habitats, but the psychology’s the same.

UJ: And agency?

P: Agency is important. As it stands, you people are advocating teaching about something without the ability to take action on what we have learnt. If there is something that makes complete sense to change, because it would be better for people and planet, and especially for future generations, then maybe we should start with small steps. I would like to work on a project when I am about 9 years old, investigating the use of resources in school. Pupils should be able to learn about the consequences of their actions. I am undecided whether this should include impacts on the Earth system yet. Maybe we could look at the Greek root of the word economy, i.e. to manage one’s household. Fossil fuels are unsustainable, waste costs money. These things are fairly obvious to anyone who can get their head round the fact we live on a finite planet.

UJ: And rigour?

P: I need a bit more time on this, but I would want some intelligent people to come up with a way to introduce me to the difference between short-term variability and long-term trends, the interconnectedness of the Earth system, how scientists predict, model and test theories, gather data, and the moral imperative of acting on science.

UJ: Morality and science?

P: It’s odd, isn’t it? What we are really arguing about here is using education as a tool to show young people that in the midst of doing sweet nothing about climate change, that action needs to be taken to mitigate an unholy, global balls-up in fifty years’ time.

UJ: Oops. Any suggestions?

P: In terms of engagement with current changes, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer:

  1. Will the current proposals weaken or remove opportunities for young people to develop a personal relationship with nature?
  2. Will the current proposals remove or weaken the opportunity for schools to offer agency to young people to act on what they learn?
  3. Are there sufficient opportunities for schools to teach with appropriate rigour the science (including geographical science) I need to understand to grow my appreciation of my local environment to the Earth system?

UJ: You’ve put this to schools, does government not have a role to play?

P: To a degree, but I’ve found that governments come and go. As long as they don’t prevent the appropriate teaching of these issues, it is up to wider society (schools, teachers, education experts, academics, child psychologists, naturalists, environmentalist, industry and commerce) to work out how best to teach young people about climate change. Words in the curriculum are perhaps the least of our worries.

The Ocean talks to Michael Gove

This is the transcript of a conversation between Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education and the Ocean examining the latest draft National Curriculum document.

Michael Gove: I understand you have some concerns about the latest draft curriculum. Let me assure you, to start with, that the programmes of study put forward are designed to present a return to a curriculum that is built on a core of rigorous knowledge.

The Ocean: I can see that you have put a lot of work into this, but I just wanted to point out that I feel a little ignored and at times misrepresented, and…

MG: Let me stop you there. This is a core set of knowledge that every young person should know, schools and teachers are still free to include information they think is relevant to the young people that they teach.

TO: I understand, it’s just that I cover over 70% of the planet’s surface, contain 95% of the living space, 98% of all life is aquatic and I provide at least half the oxygen that you breathe, not to mention a little climate regulation on the side.

MG: Well, we never say that teachers cannot teach about you, and there are several references to the oceans within the documentation. In science for Year 5 (9 year olds), you are mentioned as one of the other habitats that pupils can study, and we believe that 5 and 6 year olds should learn the names of your different basins in geography. Surely that’s enough.

TO: I’m all for rigour and your core plus approach to curriculum planning, and I’ll say again 98% of all life is aquatic. That’s why I was confused to read that in Year 2 Science, young people will be taught that: “find out about and describe the basic needs of animals, including humans, for survival (water, food and air)”. Do you know what happens when you put a fish in air? Then I read every single example of animals that pupils can study, chickens, butterflies, woodlice, frogs, sheep, slugs, worms, spiders, and insects. Yes, there was a cursory mention of fish, but I feel a little let down.

MG: Look. You are mentioned as a habitat that pupils could study. In Year 5 Science, pupils are asked to “compare life cycles of plants and animals in their local environment with other plants and animals around the world (the rainforest, under the oceans, desert areas and in prehistoric times), asking pertinent questions and suggesting reasons for similarities and differences”.

TO: Before tackling the main point you are making, it’s ‘in the ocean’, not ‘under the oceans’. I am not just one habitat, I contain a huge diversity of environments for life: coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, mudflats, estuaries, intertidal zone, sandy shore, rocky shore, mangroves and salt marshes, open surface waters, the open deep sea, vents and seeps, oceanic trenches and seamounts. I don’t see why just because I am mostly unseen and covered by a reflective surface that your new rigorous approach to the curriculum should be so unbalanced.

MG: I think you just need to recognise that most young people’s first encounter with nature will be looking under rocks and finding creepy crawlies, or having the opportunity to grow something in a garden. If you keep on taking this ‘me, me, me’ route, I may have to brand you as an enemy of progress.

TO: I was trying to be nice. You live on an island. No one is ever more than 71 miles from the sea in England. The oceans are vital for the survival of humanity. So here are my demands, as a starter:

  1. include an ocean habitat as a must for primary and secondary school science
  2. correct any factual inaccuracies in the draft curriculum where you completely ignore the oceans and marine science (e.g. the ‘air’ comment above)
  3. do not refer to me as an ‘other’ habitat around the world
  4. give me my proper place when pupils study primary production
  5. within Earth science at Key Stage 3 Science, make sure that pupils know my role in the current composition of the Earth and atmosphere
  6. the production of carbon dioxide and its impact needs to include ocean acidification as well climate change

I’ll come back to you on geography once I’ve calmed down, and just remember I provide half your oxygen. Don’t ignore me or make me angry.

[Editor's note: the ocean was a little upset as you may be able to tell, any comments, corrections or additions from the marine science community welcome. We are looking to arrange further interviews between important global concerns and the Minister, please let us know if you have any recommendations.]

The phenomenon of Aurora Borealis

BBC’s series Frozen Planet investigates another natural wonder of the Earth as they film scientists researching the effects of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, on the atmosphere.

The brilliant light show that occurs every winter in the Arctic is created when the magnetic pull of the North Pole lures in electrically intense particles evaporating from the sun. As the solar wind particles collide with those of the polar region they create an aurora that  acts as a reminder of the sun’s presence during the dark days of  Arctic winters.

While Aurora Borealis captures our attention as an amazing natural phenomenon, scientists recognize that the lights possess the potential to have a negative impact on the whole Northern Hemisphere. The geometric storm can affect satellites, power grids, navigation and communication systems as well as deteriorate  oil pipelines.

A main way scientists research the relationship between the atmosphere and space environment is through launching smoke rockets into the air at bases such as the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. They are able to track the way the chemical trails released by the rockets are affected by the winds created from Aurora Borealis and then use their measurements to predict future space weather. Professor Dirk Lummerzheim, aurora expect from the Poker Flat Range stated that “If we can predict space weather, we can prepare for it and mitigate the dangers.”

Read more about the wonders of the Northern Lights on BBC Nature and on Frozen Plant!

Google Earth Expedition Gallery #5 – Shimshal Expedition

This is the fifth entry in a series of expedition based Google Earth tours from Digital Explorer.

ge link icon Download the Google Earth tour – Road to Shimshal 2006

You will need Google Earth to view the tour. If you don’t have Google Earth, you can download it for free:

download google earth

Contact Digital Explorer, if you would like to make a Google Earth tour for your expedition or fieldwork.

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