Given all the commotion of the past week, I’ll bet you didn’t realize Monday was World Oceans Day. Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, this international day of education was created to promote sustainable conservation and foster public interest in the health and wellness of our oceans. I know this isn’t the most important issue at the moment. I know we’re in the middle of difficult conversations and jarring personal changes. Yet all the same, I’d like to take moment to highlight the significance of our planet’s oceans.
I think many of us tend to think about the ocean in a solely recreational way. It’s a summer vacation spot, or place to go fishing, or a pleasantly soothing screensaver for our TV. In reality though, Earth’s ocean is the cornerstone to all life on our planet. The ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, which regulates our climate and weather patterns. Algae blooms produce more oxygen than the Amazon rainforest, and most commercial food and drugs rely on ingredients found only in the sea.
And right now, all of that is in danger.
Seas of Change
We’ve known for some time that climate change, pollution, and overfishing are taking a devastating toll on our oceans. The Great Barrier Reef, once considered the greatest natural wonder on our planet, has experienced widespread bleaching in only a handful of years. Many species of fish are endangered of going extinct. Our actions have consequences, and the longer we wait to do something, the more severe those consequences are going to be. But this leaves us with a difficult question, “What are we supposed to do?”
I think both students and educators can get overwhelmed by this question. We’re just a handful of individuals sitting in a classroom or conversing virtually over social media. How are we supposed to save the oceans? How will anything we do amount to more than a drop in a bucket?
Don’t sell yourself short.
The task may be daunting, but I firmly believe that students and educators have the potential to create immense change in our world. In fact, the opportunities are all around you! Here are just a few ways you and your students can help safeguard our oceans for years to come.
Time to Dive In
Educating Others: Every coastal state is unique and important in its own way. Texas, for example, has some of the most biologically diverse marine habitats in the world. Most sea turtles lay their eggs on Florida beaches, and did you know some whales use the warm waters of Hawaii as a nursery for their young? Your students can help create a sustainable world by discovering what makes their own state special. Work with them to learn what plants and animals are native to their communities, then record your findings and share it with the world!
Investigate Your Water: All rivers flow to the sea, and so does everything that floats within them. Keeping our waterways free of pollution is a big factor in both the ocean’s health and our own. Have your students investigate water samples to determine what’s in their water and search for ways to improve their water quality. Afterwards, they can share what they’ve learned by creating a fundraiser to stop water pollution. You could also work with them to organize a cleanup of a local lake or river!
Speak Out: Community action can be a powerful force for good, but positive changes risk disappearing if laws aren’t there to support them. Once your students have learned more about their home state and water quality, urge them to speak out on environmental issues that matter to them. Using respectful discourse, have them construct and articulate their position with well-researched facts and reasoning. Finally, allow them to choose a method for delivering this message to others. They could create an inspiring podcast, write a letter to their local congressman, or try to go viral with an informative YouTube video. Just imagine if our students became the changemakers our world needs.
I know the scope of things can feel pretty overwhelming. There are so many problems in our world right now, and restoring the ocean seems like an impossible task best left to someone else. However, we should never underestimate the value of small actions. Teachers and students have the potential to create real change in the world, even if our work only amounts to small drops. And after all, what is the ocean but a wealth of small drops?
“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.” – Dave Barry