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[de] Oceans Teacher Academy and why we should be teaching about our oceans.

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'The more you learn about the oceans, the more you realise how important it is to know more about it'

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A week or so ago I was just getting back from the first Oceans Academy run by Digital Explorer.  The aim of this post is to share some reflections on the weekend and about the oceans in general.

After the weekend, it became very clear to me that our team need to be teaching about oceans. In fact, they should be embedded throughout the curriculum.

Firstly, a huge thank you to Jamie and Sarah at Digital Explorer for putting together such an inspirational weekend. Also a huge thanks to Helen, Ceri and Mark – real polar scientists who were enthusiastic about their subjects and, more importantly, willing to share and reach out. There should be more opportunities for teachers to meet and work with scientists.

Many CPD events have me clock watching, ‘locked’ in a basement, talked to continually or wondering why.  This weekend balanced the need for training, a campaign message and the desire to reflect.  No need to watch the clock and it’s brilliant to have been involved in something that was truly a multi-direction exchange of information.

I’ve recently written about the need for teachers to talk about and decide on the ‘what’ of the curriculum. After this weekend, I have been left wondering and more than slightly embarrassed about the oversight of not teaching about oceans and how people are affecting them.  The current curriculum upheaval is an ideal opportunity to introduce and embed oceans within and throughout the Geography curriculum. 

Why do I think this?:

  • The oceans account for 71% of our planet’s surface.
  • They are an important store of carbon.
  • The ocean circulation affects our climate.
  • Our activity affects the oceans.
  • Scientists care about this topic and many aspects are emerging and uncertain – this is an opportunity to close the gap between secondary teaching and higher education. This is a chance to remove some of the fossilisation of Geography. Young people need to be exposed to scientific uncertainty and the fact that no one really knows what effect the changing ocean system will have on people.
  • As the oceans are changing they will have an effect on future generations.  Therefore, surely our students have an interest in knowing about them.
  • There are lots of very cool stuff living in the ocean.

From the weekend, participants took away a resource booklet.  The materials are excellent (my only gripe being that some lessons are worksheet intensive but that is easy to adapt) and the accompanying media player containing photos and videos are a superb resource. At the moment, these have been delayed a little but will be available on the [de] Oceans pages soon.

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What we plan to teach about.

Key stage three is the natural location for Ocean studies and the forthcoming curriculum change won’t stand in the way as just because it isn’t written down, doesn’t mean that we can’t teach about it. There are three main areas that we plan to explore:

  • Ocean acidification – lots of interesting research in this area and a topic that has many misconceptions. While exploring this topic there is an ideal opportunity to explore the role on the media versus scientific evidence.
  • A more in depth look at the Thermohaline Conveyor.  I have often included the basics, especially at GCSE when studying the climate system, but an excellent talk by Mark BrandonIMG_3086 and a simple practical experiment opened my mind to further possibilities.  I am guilty of not including too many practical demonstrations in the classroom. This will change as a result of the weekend. The topic would also link to some ‘real’ research going on now. I loved the talk as it hammered home that, with a small amount of tweaking, this is real science, with lots of data, that is accessible to students.  For example, the wonderful data images would be very useful for GCSE students when teaching to interpret graphs and describe patterns. This is an essential exam and controlled assessment skill. While we’re at it, we could be doing some real geography. There are also lots of opportunities to explore the scientific process – Mark shared some great insights into how ocean currents were discovered that involved sea battles.
  • Ocean pollution – the problem of plastics.  This is going to end our current unit on the Geography of Stuff (Am I an Eco-Saint or an Eco-Sinner).
  • Overfishing – an ideal opportunity to link to high profile media campaigns here by exploring the science behind it.  Also providing an excellent example of how positive action can lead to change at EU level.
  • Local habitats. I teach in Portsmouth which is next to the sea.  But I’m guilty of not exploring the habitats on the doorstep but moving on to places further afield.  This is similar to an idea given to me by Jeff Stanfield where students consider native forests before moving on to the tropical rainforest.  Digging for worms and hunting for creatures (imaginatively called mudwrestling for invertebrates during the weekend). These tiny creatures and worms are the basis for a food chain.
  • Ocean research, and Polar ocean research in particular, is hard work.  It’s in some crazy temperatures, in some crazy but beautiful places.  I often cover Polar Explorations that involved getting to the Poles, but what about the scientific exploration?

This is (erm) the top of the iceberg. I plan to share more detailed thoughts and plans as they are developed.

Still not convinced? This may provide some food for thought:

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