We’re excited to announce that we have teamed up with the Connect Academy Trust in Plymouth, Devon, to launch an exciting curriculum learning project which aims to put the Ocean at the centre of education across Plymouth.
On Monday, 28th October, a large-scale planning event saw 240 teaching staff from across the south west Academy area descend on our centre of Ocean excellence, the National Marine Aquarium, where they spent the morning working together with our expert education team to create a learning programme designed to integrate the Ocean into everyday teaching that is the first of its kind in the UK.
This week, the programme has continued to gather momentum, with teachers gathering once again, this time at Thornbury Primary School, to learn more about the importance of Ocean literacy. Led by our Schools Programme Manager, Stu Higgs, this was an important lesson for all involved, laying the groundwork for future teaching about the Ocean and highlighting the vital importance of increasing Ocean literacy in schools.
Next, teachers will go away and start to think about how their learnings relate to their curriculums for next term, before meeting at the next session to start to workshop and make some solid plan for execution in the classroom.
Teachers from five Plymouth schools are participating in the forward-thinking programme, including Eggbuckland Vale, Leigham, Manadon Vale, Thornbury and Widey Court Primary Schools – all of which are members of the Connect Academy Trust.
Centred in the city, the Connect Academy Trust was formed in 2016, with the aim of providing a firm foundation for developing teachers and leaders in order to secure the best learning opportunities for its pupils. It operates a dynamic system in which each school is a giver and receiver of support – and this latest project, which will also be supported by the Marine Biological Association, is one of its most ambitious yet.
Dubbed the ‘Connecting us with our Ocean’, project, it aims to develop a love and understanding of the importance of the Ocean in pupils, whilst inspiring and enabling staff to design their subject curriculums around the topic. It’s one that is notably absent from the current National Curriculum – something that the Ocean Conservation Trust finds concerning.
Nicola Bridge, our Head of Conservation Education and Communications for the charity, says: “Despite the Ocean representing the largest living space on the planet and being essential for the survival of all of us, it is notably missing from the current English National Curriculum, which is something we, as an Ocean conservation charity, feel strongly needs to change. The UK is a national and global leader in marine science, and Ocean related teaching should be an essential part of the core curriculum offering for all schools.
“The Ocean provides half of the oxygen we breathe, drives the weather and climate and is a valuable food source for much of the world, and to look after it for future generations, we need to create an Ocean literate generation – that is to say, a generation that understands the ways in which we are all inextricably connected to it, just as it is to us.”
Our Schools Programme Manager, Stu Higgs, adds: “In England, the National Curriculum is very flexible, and it can be translated in many ways by different schools, allowing dynamic teacher input. However, as it has always had a terrestrial bias and is still currently framed towards terrestrial ecosystems – and in the primary science curriculum, excludes Ocean related topics altogether – many teachers have limited previous experience in teaching marine topics.
“With this in mind, we are delighted to have been approached by the Connect Academy Trust to work with them on this exciting planning session. Getting a cross-curricular Ocean themed learning programme into Plymouth schools will be a huge step in the right direction – not just for Ocean conservation, but for the blue economy too. There are many STEM career opportunities related to the Ocean and ensuring that school children are made aware of these from an early age will broaden their horizons when choosing a career path to follow later in life. We hope that many other schools across the country will follow suit in future.”
The project is yet another strand of our recently launched #ThinkOcean initiative, which is designed to get as many people as possible thinking about the Ocean. Our 21 years of experience have shown us that getting people to ponder about, experience and enjoy the Ocean is the most effective way to lay the foundations for long-term support for conservation – and what better place to start sowing this vitally important seed than in schools?
Stuart Bellworthy, CEO of the Connect Academy Trust, said: “All five of the Connect Academy Trust schools are very excited to be working with the Ocean Conservation Trust on the first project of this kind, introducing an Ocean-based curriculum for 4-11-year-olds into our schools. As a Trust, we are highly ambitious for all the children in our schools and see this as a wonderful opportunity to develop their understanding of Plymouth, our Ocean City, as well as deepening their knowledge of essential subjects such as ecology, science, geography and environmental issues.
“One of the advantages of being a Multi-Academy Trust is that we can work with organisations and charities such as the Ocean Conservation Trust, together with each school in the Connect Academy Trust, to develop our curriculum in exciting ways like this, and this collaboration will allow us to use cross-curricular topic work, which every year group will be undertaking as part of the ‘Connect with our Ocean’ project, officially starting in September 2020.”
Long-term, our aim is to take this exciting initiative further afield, and get children across the UK thinking about the Ocean in their daily lives. We’re delighted to have kicked things off in Britain’s Ocean City – home of our biggest tool for discovery and learning, the National Marine Aquarium – and can’t wait to see teachers and their pupils starting to have some important conversations about the Ocean within their classrooms.