Resources for Conservation Educators from The Ocean Project

24 September 2010 | News story

Resources for "Reaching Youth" and "Inspiring Children" fill two new webpages with material designed to inspire wonder and action, writes Abigail Nehring of The Ocean Project, where CEC member William Mott is director.
 

By Abigail Nehring, Conservation Associate, The Ocean Project

The Right Age for Action: Inspiring and Motivating Youth
Visit the webpage REACHING YOUTH >>

Key findings from The Ocean Project’s research into environmental and conservation awareness and action are now helping zoos, aquariums, and museums reach new ground in conservation education. The organization’s 2009 report on its most recent market research shows that US youth (ages 12-17) are more concerned about the ocean and other environmental issues than their parents, and that while the parent remains the "decision-maker," the child increasingly is becoming the "opinion-maker" on environment-related issues. Furthermore, younger generations possess a stronger belief in individual accountabilities concerning the state of the environment and a greater willingness to modify individual behaviors in support of the environment.

The implications are compelling and profound. More than 80% of Americans now identify as an “active participant” or “sympathetic” to the environmental movement, and these numbers are strongest among youth. The Ocean Project plans to conduct market research in other countries in the coming years.

Equipped with these and additional insights from ongoing North American market research, as well as preliminary research from several other countries, The Ocean Project is helping its growing global partner network of over 1,200 zoos, aquariums, museums, and other conservation education organizations develop effective environmental education and outreach programs.

A new initiative focused on working closely with youth will be launched later this year. The Ocean Project will recruit teen activists to participate in the team effort of building campaign strategies and methods. The effort will leverage the social networks of the “teen-agents” and empower them as they help empower their peers.

Many resources for educators working with tweens and teens are now available on The Ocean Project’s new "Reaching Youth" page.

Inspiring children for life
Visit the webpage INSPIRING CHILDREN >>

No child is too young to experience a sense of wonder about nature, but parents and educators should be cautious about overwhelming children with daunting environmental issues like disappearing species and global warming. Instead, exploring and developing a personal connection with the creatures where one lives is a good way to start building a bond with the earth.

David Sobel and other educators and researchers have introduced the concept of “ecophobia” into the ongoing conversation about environmental education. In a time when it is more important than ever for people to be environmentally aware and engaged, Sobel suggests that exposing young children to global crises can actually turn them off to nature and being environmentally-minded citizens later in life.

In response to these insights in environmental education and its own market research, The Ocean Project has launched a new Web page for educators. The Ocean Project encourages educators to inspire environmental values in children and youth – in a way that’s age-appropriate and engaging for everyone involved.

  • For young children (ages 6 and under) a growing body of research suggests that encouraging outdoor play, place-based education, and celebration of the wonders of nature are the best strategies for early environmental education.
  • For older children (typically ages 7-11) exploration of the natural world, building tree forts, hunting and gathering, and creating imaginary worlds are a natural way to bond with the earth.
  • For tweens and adolescents, social action and personal impact awareness can be incorporated into the educational process. Managing a school recycling program is a good example of the age-appropriate rite of passage children seek at this age.

Visit The Ocean Project’s "Inspiring Children" page to learn more about experiential education and the right age to start taking action.

About The Ocean Project 

The Ocean Project works in collaboration with its partners to advance ocean conservation around the world. Creating a concerned, sensitive, and engaged public is the best way to protect the vitality of our oceans. To learn more about its market research and other strategic ways to improve communications for conservation outcomes, visit www.TheOceanProject.org. For more information, contact: Bill Mott, Director, The Ocean Project, Rhode Island, USA: BMott@theoceanproject.org.