Explorers Education Programme at the centre of increasing children’s ocean knowledge

Explorers team at Galway Science and Technology Festival 2019. Photo Garry KendellenThe ocean is one of our planets major life support systems, yet many of us may not be aware of the reasons why we should be grateful for what the ocean provides us. In our everyday life we depend on the ocean for the oxygen we breathe, Ireland's mild climate, to a rich and diverse marine ecosystem providing an incredible range of species and habitats.

Promoting a greater awareness of Ireland's maritime identity including the value of the ocean and learning about Ireland's marine biodiversity, the Marine Institute's Explorers Education Programme has been at the centre of delivering ocean science and ocean literacy to primary school children since it ran its pilot 13 years ago.

Now reaching over 12,690 children in 10 coastal counties around Ireland annually, Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute congratulated the Explorers team on their recent achievements noting that "Ireland's history, culture and economy are inextricably linked to the ocean. With this in mind, the Explorers Education Programme has helped make ocean knowledge more accessible to children in schools as well as the wider community."

The Camden Education Trust, recently contracted to manage the Explorers Education Programme, are delighted to be working with the Marine Institute and the Explorers outreach teams around the country with its operations. "The Explorers Education Programme has moved from strength to strength over the last number of years and we are proud to be working on the leading ocean literacy initiative for schools in Ireland, creating a community of ocean advocates," said Mr Bernard Kirk, CEO, The Camden Education Trust.

Leading by example, the Explorers Education Outreach Officer, Padraic Creedon at Galway Atlantaquaria, has this year worked with over 60 schools supporting teachers and providing marine themed activities to the children. This included the delivery of seashore safaris where children explored the wonders of the rocky shores and sandy beaches; set up of aquariums in classrooms with species that can be found on seashore; and completed workshops that focused on marine science, technology, engineering and maths.MacDara Flavin and Jack Gavin from Barna at the Marine Institute exhibition stand at Galway Science and Technology Festival. Photo Cushla Dromgool-Regan.

The team also carried out marine projects, where the children were engaged in learning about marine biodiversity, climate change, plastic pollution, as well as creating art work and writing poems influenced by Ireland's ocean legends, folklore and fairy tales. Anna Quinn, Education Officer at the aquarium had the pleasure of working with Ms Kelly's class in Scoil Rois, Salthill, on the legend of Hy Brasil.

"A number of these projects made their way to national marine exhibits and science fairs, this year, which is a huge accomplishment for the children. This was evident at the recent Galway Science and Technology festival, where the positive action, engagement and enthusiasm of students learning about the ocean was a key element in so many of the children's projects on display. The Galway Explorers supporting the initiative in schools and the wider community 'Making One Small Change' is definitely building to a big change for our ocean" said Dr Noirin Burke, Galway Atlantaquaria.

"We were delighted to see students, teachers and parents from Kilglass National School presenting at the GSTF. Their stand, led by teacher Peter Kane, introduced the topic of Ocean Acidification and Climate Change to the visitors they engaged with. We know these are not easy subjects to deal with, therefore seeing the children passionate about leading the way towards a sustainable future gave the Explorers team a sense of pride" added Dr Noirin Burke.

Supporting the work of the Marine Institute, and outreach teams, Camden Education Trust are keen to continue to inspire children and educators to become ocean champions of our future. "Through the Explorers activities delivered in schools and an evaluation of the children's participating in the programme, indicative results show that the children have increased their ocean literacy knowledge by 21 percent, reaching scores of over 80 percent in the Explorers questionnaire this year," explained Cushla Dromgool-Regan, Explorers Education Manager, The Camden Education Trust.

Peter Kanes class from Kilglass National School presents climate change project at GSTF. Photo Cushla DromgoolReganThese results confirm the increased enthusiasm amongst children and the youth who are continuing to show a high level of engagement learning and raising awareness amongst the wider community about the value of our marine resource. This is particularly noted for the support of the 2030 Agenda.

"The sustainable development goal SD14-Life Below Water, is highlighted where we are seeing more and more children directing conversations towards the urgent need to protect and sustainably manage our ocean resource. This is essential for humanity as a whole, and to counterbalance the effects of climate change," said Cushla Dromgool-Regan, The Camden Education Trust.

The Explorers Education Programme have a number of innovative projects planned for 2020, discovering and exploring our ocean. Check out www.explorers.ie for new lesson plans and materials on marine biodiversity, ocean temperature, chemistry and the currents that drives the global systems that make the Earth habitable.