[Coral-List] Responses to my initial post concerning input on student "beef" on marine science/biology education

Brian Plankis brian at reefstewardshipfoundation.org
Fri Dec 5 16:43:34 EST 2008

Hello coral-listers,

I would like to thank all of you for your quick responses to my initial
post. I am in the middle of wrapping up the research study in the classrooms
and am quite busy at the moment, so I have chosen to write a general
response to all of the comments posted so far. After the research study is
concluded I will respond individually to some of the great e-mails I

I have posted your comments for all the students to read, I hope we get a
response from them soon. There were many excellent points made in the
responses and I'll attempt to answer them here:

1. For James Engman, I agree the PSA in Hawaii is a good example, more PSAs
are needed around the world.

2. As many pointed out, the lack of education in our country concerning
marine science/marine biology/environmental education is a root cause of the
problem. These areas were left out of the last round of the national
standards and whether or not they make the next round is crucial. Probably
the best effort right now in the USA is the NOAA/Cosee (
http://www.cosee.net/) collaborative effort to develop Ocean Literacy
standards and seeing how that effort develops will be very important to the
future of marine education in this country.

There are some excellent local/regional efforts, such as the Southeast
Florida Coral Reef Initiative, and on a related subject area, the Great
Lakes by Rosanne Fortner (http://coseegreatlakes.net/), that are meaningful
in their own right, but without a national recognition of these efforts in
the standards it will be difficult to implement the changes that are needed.
Currently marine science/marine biology/environmental education is
marginalized in our school system and will never have the impact we want it
to have if it stays there.

Any national standards should be flexible enough for some local
environmental issues to be researched as those will be relevant to the
students. Of course global environmental problems can also be researched,
but student understanding of global environmental issues is yet another
challenge, as many find it hard to believe they impact a coral reef in
Indonesia by eating a cheeseburger or many hold misconceptions, such as the
famous misconceptions of a thin ozone layer causing global warming (Boyes &
Stanisstreet, 1996, 1997).

3. Another item that needs addressing in the standards is focusing on more
than knowledge. It will not be enough to include in the ocean literacy
standards that 97% of the water on Earth is in the ocean or that coral reefs
reduce erosion of beaches by reducing wave energy that reaches the shore.
This is valuable knowledge, but knowledge by itself will do little to
actually help solve the environmental problems.

As Alex Holecek said "Getting mad at the weakness of the school system
doesn't make it change, only action does." Helping students become invested
in environmental problems and helping them develop skills on how they can
help take action of their own to address them should be part of the
standards. I think part of what we are talking about here is the goal of
environmental literacy, as discussed in Roth's 1992 article:

'is a basic functional education for all people, which provides them with
the elementary knowledge, skills and motives to cope with environmental
needs and contribute to sustainable development.' (p. 23)

Roth further goes on to describe 3 levels of environmentally literate
people, but the goal of the Ocean Literacy standards movement or any related
movement to get marine science/biology/environmental education topics into
the classroom should have the goal of the highest level of environmental
literacy, called "operational environmentally literate students". Basically
students that are not only functionally literate, but demonstrate a deeper
understanding, broader skills, and commitment to environmental quality.

One of the goals of my research study was to see how a curriculum based on
an approach to develop "operational environmentally literate" students would
work in our current classrooms. I chose to use the IEEIA model developed by
Hungerford, et al (2003) which focuses on students developing their own
action plans to address environmental issues. There are some good initial
signs from the research study, but we won't know the full results until we
analyze all the data.

If the next round of standards does not incorporate some of these elements
in a significant way, we will probably continue our current course where
most citizens are marginally environmentally aware and only undertake token
positive environmental behaviors (Jurin & Fortner, 2002).

4. In regards to conferences, in addition to the conference already listed:
(http://www.5weec.uqam.ca/) there are plenty of conferences where people
interested in this subject should attempt to get together or work on
developing presentations/discussions. Some additional conferences where
people could meet include:

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): March 19-22, 2009, New
Orleans. - Brian will present the first round of results from this research
study at NSTA.

International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC): May 19-24, 2009,
Washington, D.C. - At least one RSF representative will attend.

National Marine Educators Assocation (NMEA): Monterey Bay, CA June 29-July
3rd, 2009

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE): Portland,
OR, October 7-10, 2009.

If anyone from the Reef Stewardship Foundation attends these conferences,
I'm sure we would be happy to meet people and discuss possibilities.


Brian Plankis
Reef Stewardship Foundation

Boyes, E., & Stanisstreet, M. (1996). Threats to the global atmospheric
environment: The extent of pupil understanding. International Research in
Geographical and Environmental Education, 5(3), 186-195.

Boyes, E., & Stanisstreet, M. (1997). Children's models of understanding of
two major global environmental issues (ozone layer and greenhouse effect).
Research in Science & Technological Education, 15(1), 19.

Hungerford, H. R., Volk, T. L., Ramsey, J. R., Litherland, R. A., & Peyton,
R. B. (2003). Investigating and Evaluating Environmental Issues and Actions.
Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing Co.

Jurin, R. R., & Fortner, R. W. (2002). Symbolic beliefs as barriers to
responsible environmental behavior. Environmental Education Research, 8(4),

Roth, C. E. (1992). Environmental literacy: Its roots, evolution and
directions in the 1990s. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science,
Mathematics, and Environmental Education.

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