by Gene Williamson

Forty years ago, when I first decided that I wanted to teach about the oceans in my 8th grade classroom in Corvallis, I was faced with a daunting task. Not only were there only the sketchiest of materials available, the prevailing wisdom was that students were not capable of dealing with sea floor geology, tides, and similar topics. There was no course of study or a common understanding of what we wanted to teach and how. Several other Oregon teachers were having similar problems. We met to discuss our mutual conundrum and, as a result, NAME was born.

Forty years later, with an ocean-literate society becoming increasingly important, the individual efforts of marine educators from around the world are finally being assembled into a single cogent statement of what we need to teach, and a logical approach to teaching it. The work that began five years ago under the auspices of the National Geographic Society, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and several COSEEs1, with input from teachers and scientists from across the country, resulted in a brochure that outlined the seven basic principles of Ocean Science Literacy along with their corollaries. To see brochure, visit: OceanLitChart.pdf

In the intervening years, teachers and scientists have developed a logical scope and sequence (conceptual flows) for teaching important marine topics from grades K -12 ( ocean_science_literacy/scope_and_sequence/home.html).

It is far easier to look at the story lines that are developed by the scope and sequence than it is to describe them. These story lines have been repeatedly reviewed and revised by scientists and teachers working in concert to make sure that they are scientifically and pedagogically sound.

In September 2009, an Oregon Summit on Ocean Science Literacy was held at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Representatives of all aspects of the development of the scope and sequence came together with representatives of other stakeholders, including the liaison from the Western Governors’ Agreement of Ocean Health and the education directors from our National Estuarine Research Reserves, to discuss progress to date.

On the horizon is an effort to write activities that correspond to specific conceptual flows for grades three through eight. But, if you don’t want to wait, terrific ocean, estuarine and watershed activities and curricula have been developed and published, some of the best right here in NAME country. For sure, educators who want to add ocean studies to their classroom will find the task much less daunting than it was in the 1960s.

1Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence – a network of catalytic, multi-faceted collaboration to integrate on-going research in the ocean sciences with K-12 education and outreach.

Gene Williamson is a former NAME & NMEA board member. You can email Gene at: