Call of the Sea’s Curricular Commitment
On-the-Water Ocean Environmental Literacy For All
By Dr. Dax Ovid, director of education programs at Call of the Sea
Have you visited the ocean before? Whether you see the ocean regularly or not, the impact of the ocean on our climate and planet is too profound to ignore in K-12 environmental and outdoor education. Learn below why Call of the Sea strives everyday to get classrooms out on-the-water.
Walking down the US Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model Pier, 3rd grade students from Ford Elementary in Richmond, CA were chatting with anticipation of boarding the boat on a Friday in mid-April. One student pointed to the water, “Look, it’s the ocean!” Soon, she would be seeing and feeling a raised relief map of California, noticing the many rivers flowing into San Francisco Bay, and wondering exactly how many rivers deluged fresh water into our local estuary and where the bay became the ocean. Another student started off on the boat by sitting down and staying still. “I’m scared,” she said as we pulled away from the dock. “What are you scared of?” I asked. “That an animal is going to jump on the boat.” I shared that I saw dolphins jumping next to the boat, but I’ve never seen an animal jump on the boat. She smiled.
A Blueprint on Environmental Literacy by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Environmental Literacy Task Force states, “An environmentally literate person has the capacity to act individually and with others to support ecologically sound, economically prosperous, and equitable communities for present and future generations. Through lived experiences and education programs that include classroom-based lessons, experiential education, and outdoor learning, students will become environmentally literate, developing the knowledge, skills, and understanding of environmental principles to analyze environmental issues and make informed decisions.” This definition was informed by the Ocean and Climate Literacy Principles, and the history of the development of Ocean Literacy principles includes a collaborative effort with scientists and educators from around the world. We’re standing on the shoulders of teams of giants when it comes to environmental literacy. But once you read the Blueprint’s definition of an environmentally literate person, the ocean disappears. Meanwhile, the ocean is prominent in the California Science Framework.
Although over 70% of Earth is ocean, nearly 100% of most humans’ lived experiences are terrestrial. When it comes to designing classroom-based lessons and outdoor learning, land is the most accessible platform for experiential education. It’s easy to overlook ocean environmental literacy, especially for landlocked residents with little to no sea experience. An environmentally literate person is making informed decisions based on “lived experiences, classroom-based lessons, experiential education and outdoor learning.” If students’ experiences and lessons are land-biased, then students are missing the wonders and the mystery of 70% of our planet–largely uninhabited, unexplored, and considered uninhabitable…
While most consider the ocean to be uninhabitable, Lawrence Hall of Science is challenging students to design a city on the water for their summer camp, City Engineers. Imagine design camps informed by direct experience of the bay and ocean.
Teachers frequently share it can be an uphill battle to make on-the-water field experiences happen. One teacher said she had to fight with her district 3 years ago to take her class for their first on-the-water educational experience. When I asked her why she had to fight, she said there were concerns about safety for on-the-water programs. I can imagine the same concern being raised before about taking students outside the classroom, stalling teachers’ demand for outdoor educational experiences. It’s like the student afraid an animal would jump on the boat. Preoccupations of the risks of being on a boat can only be assuaged through lived experiences of the wonder, joy, and feeling of an ocean breeze.
Beyond concerns for safety, there are also legitimate concerns about access to coastal and on-the-water field experiences. Consider how far (and how long) you have to drive to see the coast and the ocean. UCLA’s 2017 Policy Report Access for All lists cost as the determining factor. If you can’t drive there and back home in a day trip, you’ll have to find a place to spend the night, and coastal hotels do not have a reputation of affordability. The Coastal Commission has a strategic priority of providing low cost coastal accommodations, and they list Residential Outdoor Education Facilities (like the environmental education non-profit Call of the Sea) in the 2019 Explore the Coast Overnight Report. Given the information and suggestions compiled in these reports, we can start working collectively to support coastal access and routine, on-the-water educational field experiences for all.
The future of our planet depends on the state of our ocean. Given the untapped potential in educational opportunities provided by the ocean, how can schools and districts take advantage of existing resources to foster ocean environmental literacy for their students?
Challenge students to ask questions about their local watershed and the one, largely unexplored ocean: connecting all our continents, influencing our climate, and supporting a diversity of life and ecosystems (see Ocean Literacy Principles).
Engage in professional learning opportunities that fulfill California NGSS with coastal and water-based field experiences connected to classroom curriculum (e.g. Monterey Bay Aquarium, NOAA, Project WET)
Foster ocean environmental literacy and stewardship by connecting local actions to global impacts (e.g. NOAA’s Restoration Projects and the Coastal Commission’s Schoolyard Cleanups).
Join communities of educators committed to improving ocean literacy and marine science education (e.g. National Marine Educators Association)
Explore on-the-water programs statewide to observe natural phenomena, track cause and effect, and engage with natural systems and processes in the field (e.g. Call of the Sea can host classes on large sailing vessels, Treasure Island Sailing Center has small sailboats, and SeaTrek has kayaks in San Francisco Bay or Los Angeles Maritime Institute in San Pedro Bay. California State University, Northridge Aquatic Center at Castaic Lake is leading a group of other CSU boating centers into ocean environmental literacy learning). If your school or district has limited funding for field experiences, ask about scholarships and other aids.
The ocean is immense and so are the learning opportunities. We see from student evaluations how on-the-water natural phenomena inspire wonder, awe, and further questioning. Reach out to an organization providing on-the-water field experiences and dive into the possibilities for your class, your district, and our future environmental stewards for both land and sea.
The first step is equitable access to coastal and on-the-water field experiences. The next step, in conjunction with the first, must facilitate inclusive and culturally-relevant pedagogical practices for science, engineering, and environmental education for all.
A special thank you to Capt. Kurt Holland, Capt. Stephen Taylor, and Matt Grigorieff for feedback on this article.
Experiential Learning at Our Core
Sustainability On & Off the Water
Call of the Sea’s Curricular Commitment
Our world is changing, and our mission at Call of the Sea is to empower youth to serve as environmental stewards.
How does Call of the Sea ensure that the educational programs we offer fulfill our mission?
We collaborate. In the past few months, we have met with multiple youth programs and state- and federal-level agencies. We strive to ensure that what we offer fills a niche in the ecosystem of outdoor educational opportunities and enhances what happens in the classroom.
We are grateful to Bay Area Discovery Museum, San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Sonoma Water District, Contra Costa Water District, and Project Water Education for Teachers (WET) for hosting Call of the Sea. We are having conversations about creating an Environmental Literacy Collaborative, enhancing collaboration in support of California Senate Bill 720.
We innovate. We know from our feedback forms that different age groups ask different questions after going on a sail. We see exciting opportunities to cater our curriculum to each school grade level. We will be creating a new field trip guide for 2019 to share with parents, teachers, and students, and we will have a menu of options for educational experiences that support curiosity-driven learning, Common Core Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards.
A key part of innovation is measurement and assessment. We strive to ensure that the curricular material we are creating has a lasting impact, and we can only know this if we track and measure our impact.
We co-create. Which stories and details inspire you from your experiences at sea? What do your students, children, and grandchildren ask you about science, sailing, and the ocean? We welcome input from our community to make our field trip guide and programs even better.
There are incredible programs all around the Bay Area, and Call of the Sea is committed to serving the grade levels and schools that are currently underserved. By co-creating our educational programs, we can ensure that our field trips and voyages fulfill the unmet needs of California teachers, parents, and students.
Share in the creation of an educational experience that lasts a lifetime. Email our director of education, Dax Ovid, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org to be part of Call of the Sea’s Curricular Commitment.
Experiential Learning at Our Core
Sustainability On & Off the Water
Environmental Stewardship and Action
Teaching and learning happens beyond talking and listening. The theory of environmental stewardship must be backed by the practice of being a steward (what the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire would call “praxis”).
Call of the Sea is grateful for the ideas and practices of fellow leaders in environmental stewardship. The California Coastal Commission brings the practice of the coastal clean-up to all students by offering guidelines for a schoolyard cleanup. At Call of the Sea, students experience first-hand the connection between trash on shore and marine debris. Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) offers the lesson plan “There is No Away” to emphasize the connection between what we throw away and what we find in out coastal clean-ups and on-the-water. We are inspired by YESS Marin (Youth Exploring Sea Level Rise Science), a program supporting young people to take action and engage in climate change solutions in their communities.
Participants in our sailing programs, whether it’s a field trip for younger students or a community sail for older students, are encouraged to make connections with the natural systems of San Francisco Bay, the coast, and the ocean. We encourage participants to ask questions at the intersection of human and natural systems through hands-on inquiry. We facilitate field experiences in a phenomena-rich setting.
After you sail with us, what claim can you make (based on evidence from your experience on the sail) about being an environmental steward? Let us work together to provide pathways for action for this generation.
Share in the creation of an educational experience that lasts a lifetime. Email our director of education, Dax Ovid, Ph.D., at email@example.com to be part of Call of the Sea’s Environmental Stewardship Action.
Every choice counts.
From Voyage Seaward to Maine Maritime Academy
An interview with Mikaela Pitre:
As a child, I spent my summers in Santa Cruz, California, where I could attend Marine Science camps at the Long Marine Lab in the University of Santa Cruz’s Seymour Center. Subsequently, I attended the summer program Camp Sea Lab on the Schooner Seaward, in association with California State Monterey University. During the summer of 2015, while with Camp Sea Lab, I helped to collect and assess samples of water from the Monterey Bay, specifically to test for the amounts of plastic particles in the bay. Though not required by Camp Sea Lab, out of curiosity, I wanted to follow up on the results of the water samples. I was directed to Acadia Institute of Oceanography (AIO) in Maine. With a recommendation from my high school Biology teacher, I was fortunate to get into AIO for their advanced summer program in 2016. During my time at AIO, we were given the opportunity to tour one of three local colleges, and I chose Maine Maritime Academy(MMA). Now as a student of MMA I have the opportunity to attain a dual degree in Marine Biology and Small Vessel Operations. This will allow me to study the world’s oceans in more depth, and it will provide opportunities for me to operate and navigate boats. I can then share with others what I’ve learned, through my education, and my work in the field of Marine Biology.
If you or someone you know is interested in having a middle-schooler participate in Voyage Seaward, see the dates for summer 2019 and register here! Space is limited.