Samuel Collins, Programme Manager at Oceano Azul, explained to UN News how the initiative works: “We must deliver information in a way that is digestible for different age groups. But considering the importance of these issues, and the impact they will have on the near future of the current generations, we have the responsibility to deliver certain information to the youth.”
Empowering people to take action
UNESCO has a series of events lined up for the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon – which include exhibitions such as the Ocean Decade Creative Exhibition at the city’s main Square, and a Generation Ocean Concert at the Rock in Rio Festival, on 26 June. Those events involve the global creative community, aiming to raise more awareness to ocean science and conservation.
Not so far away in Italy, Venice has for centuries illustrated the dynamic interaction between humankind and nature, underlining its capacity to act as a model for other similar ecosystems.
Due to its ideal characteristics and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, ‘Venice and its Lagoon’ were selected as the implementation site of the pilot edition of the “Kindergarten of the Lagoon” Initiative, which was launched last May.
Earlier this year, UNESCO launched a campaign to empower people to join the Generation Ocean global movement.
The programme envisages to bring ocean literacy to all children, resident in Portugal, with a special focus on the group between the ages 5 to 9 years old.
“My other expectation is to see our community include more and more stakeholders. Right now, we mainly have scientists and educators, but I think we need, for example, journalists, the media, to help us make sure the ocean is present in media outlets, and that people are more aware of the importance of the ocean for the future of this planet,” she added.
The Decade of Ocean Science is an opportunity to change the state of the ocean for the next 100 years. As a part of this push, the UN Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is asking the world to join the revolution to unlock innovative ocean science solutions. UN News spoke to experts within and outside the UN system to reveal the importance of ocean literacy.
Students as active agents of change
Working towards children’s climate education in Portugal, the Foundation aims to have more kids learning about ocean issues and their impact on the ocean, so when they grow to be decision makers, no matter what profession they choose, they will have an important role to play.
“They will do math, but they will speak about fish, they’ll learn French, speaking about the ocean, they’ll do history, but integrating oceanography, so it’s just reinforcing the curriculum, looking through a blue lens. They come to the Oceanario, and they do a lot of fantastic activities, and get excited, because there’s a huge amount of potential in a healthy ocean, and reinforcing that is important.”.
“IOC works mainly to strengthen the international collaboration on ocean science and ocean research – as no single country can undertake research on all ocean basins, by itself”, Ms. Santoro continued.
According to the Foundation, using Portugal as a starting point in the case of literacy will, nevertheless, allow the replication of actions in other countries, namely in Portuguese speaking countries and developing states.
Thematic lessons are given to classes of 25 kindergarten students, conducted using outdoor education and aimed at discovering the lagoon ecosystem. This is then followed by creative stimulation and drawing at the end of each lesson.
The new educational programme based on promoting ocean literacy principles and interaction with the environment, aims to foster a close connection between children and nature, using outdoor activities and interactions with the local community.
“It is really about empowering people with tools, to better use that ocean knowledge to become more responsible and able to take decisions that involve ocean resources, in a more knowledgeable way. It is really about being capable of understanding how much the oceans influence our life and how much we can influence the ocean in both positive and negative ways.”
Kindergarten of the Lagoon
“The last UN Ocean Conference [in 2017, in New York], ocean literacy was in its infancy, but now we can really prove that we have been able to achieve important results such as promoting the presence of ocean literacy in formal education, and we have an increasing network of blue schools around the world. But we need to scale this up, make sure that ocean literacy initiatives are happening around the world, and strengthen the collaboration to share good practices among different actors,” Ms. Santoro told UN News.
In Portugal, co-host along with Kenya of the UN Ocean Conference, which is taking place from 27 June through 1 July, the Oceano Azul Foundation has an important role in developing literacy and conservation practices there.
Francesca Santoro, who is in charge of ocean literacy at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), explained however that the definition goes beyond that.Ocean literacy is commonly defined as an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean.
The idea is to use transformative storytelling to connect citizens with ocean knowledge and drive action to restore, protect, and live better with the ocean.
Some of IOC’s flagship programmes examine the particular impacts of climate change on the ocean, and how the ocean can be considered the best ally in fighting climate change.
“The international community must make education one of the pillars of its action for the ocean and engage in education to help today’s youth become responsible and aware citizens of tomorrow,” said Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores, UNESCO Regional Bureau’s Director.
Lisbon: scale it up
“We develop a number of resources – booklets, videos or games – and we use them to collaborate with schools all around the world in order to engage people from an early age, from elementary school to high school. We use an approach that doesn’t include only learning objectives, it also includes what we call social emotional learning objectives, and behavioral learning, because we want the students to become active agents of change – so they can take part in initiatives that support ocean protection”, Ms. Santoro highlighted.
In Lisbon, on the first day of the 2022 Conference, there will be a high-level Ocean Decade Alliance Meeting, followed by an Ocean Decade Forum on 30 June, to convey a message of action, partnership, and inclusivity.
Creative community is ‘crucial’
The ocean literacy community will convene in Lisbon, Portugal, for the UN Ocean Conference, ensuring that ocean literacy is seen as a central element of ocean action.
Together with Oceanario de Lisboa, Oceano Azul has a programme to educate the blue generation, training teachers and providing them with the curriculum and resources to pass the message in the first cycle of education.