Module 1

 Module 1 Home

The Nature, Purpose and Scope
of Coastal and Marine Studies





1 Introduction

2. The Nature and Purpose of Coastal and Marine Studies

3 The Scope of Coastal and Marine Studies

4 Conclusion


1. Introduction

A. Icebreaker

The first activity is called "A Coastal and Marine Studies Tea Party". Its aim is to promote initial discussion about the major issues which will arise during the workshop. It also helps to provide a framework for evaluating the workshop. In the concluding activity participants will be invited to review what they have learnt.

  • Form participants into two concentric circles of even numbers with the inside circle facing outwards and the outside circle facing inwards. Each participant in the outside circle should stand facing a person in the inside circle to form a discussion pair. Explain that each pair is a couple of guests at a tea party.

  • Distribute a copy of Resource 1 to each participant, drawing attention to the unfinished statements.

  • Invite each discussion pair to discuss 'Unfinished Statement 1' on Resource 1 for one minute. Call "stop" (or blow a whistle) when the minute is up.

  • Now ask people in the outside to move one place to the left so that each person is now facing a new partner in the inside circle. Give the new discussion pairs one minute to discuss 'Unfinished Statement 2' on Resource 1. Call "stop" when the minute is up and motion for the outside circle to move again a place to the left to form new discussion pairs.

  • Continue this process giving one minute for the discussion of each successive statement until all have been addressed.

  • To debrief the activity, explain that the tea party discussion has introduced many of the key themes of the workshop. Ask participants to suggest what they think some of these might be. Points to look for in the debriefing include:

    • The role of all people in caring for the coasts and the sea.

    • The importance of human impacts on the coastal and marine environment.

    • Previous experiences in teaching (or being a student in) coastal and marine studies.

    • The extent of the coastal zone.

    • The links between terrestrial, coastal and marine environments.

  • Explain that the tea party discussion will be conducted again at the end of the workshop as a review and evaluation activity.

B. Workshop Objectives

  • Display OHT 1 which introduces the objectives of the workshop.

  • Relate the objectives to interesting points that came out in the 'tea party' debriefing.

2. The Nature And Purpose Of Coastal And Marine Studies

This activity introduces the close connections between ecosystems, natural processes, cultural resources, human activities and issues in coastal zone management and the need to maintain biodiversity and achieve ecological sustainability. This activity is based upon a group discussion and a mini-lecture.

Participants learn that a sustainable environment is one in which the natural environment, economic development and social and cultural life are mutually dependent and the interaction between them needs to contribute to the sustainability and enhancement of the quality of people's lives and of the natural environment. Be sure to reinforce the notion that all people can play a part in activities relevant to coastal and marine conservation. Everyone has an impact on the coastal and marine environment even in non-coastal areas because rivers eventually empty into the sea. Thus, Total Catchment Management and projects such as Landcare and Waterwatch are also relevant to coastal and marine studies.

A. Group Discussion

  • Display OHT 2A which is a list of statements about the state of the coastal and marine environment. Explain that the Australian government researched and published a report on the state of the marine environment in 1995. Explain that this is part of a major environmental monitoring programme, and that the Australian government, some States/Territories and large cities have also prepared 'state of the environment' reports that often highlight problems specific to their own coastal and marine regions.

  • Ask participants to comment on the statements on OHT 2A and to add other issues or problems that they believe are important, particularly in their local regions.

  • Highlight the connection between economic development and the needs of people to have a reliable livelihood and the need to ensure the long-term sustainability of natural resources to ensure that the economy and people's livelihoods can be secure and that environments of high conservation value are protected.

  • Direct attention to the quotations on OHT 2B. Ask participants to form groups of three to discuss the role that their teaching can play in addressing the issues noted in the quotations.

In debriefing the discussion:

  • Ask groups to report back briefly to the whole group. In your comments, highlight the role that coastal and marine studies can play in helping to set 'new directions for economic and social development' in the coastal and marine sphere.

    • Ensure that awareness of different perspectives is portrayed, ie. that the importance of coastal and marine studies has different meanings for different people especially related to cultures.

    • Ensure that the role the environment plays in maintaining culture (e.g. turtle and dugong hunters have high social standing in Torres Strait and Aboriginal communities; culture is inseparable from environment because sites are bound up in spirituality and therefore cared for, in the manner that Europeans care for their churches) is explained.

    • To achieve these points, you could include in the group discussion activity a discussion of video material (Voices from the Cape, GBRMPA, 1995, especially part one and two) or selected readings (Kakadu Man or similar; or the section on 'Indigenous peoples' links with the sea', in Coastal Zone Inquiry Final Report, 1993, p169).

    • Pose the ethical question of whether the extrinsic values of coastal and marine environments are a valid justification for caring for them. Ask for suggestions about the intrinsic value of coastal and marine environments.

B. Mini-Lecture

This mini-lecture aims to enhance participant's understanding of the scope of coastal and marine studies. The depth of information provided will be influenced by the backgrounds of the workshop participants, the goals of the workshop, and the time available.

Several OHTs (Nos. 3 - 9) and Reading 1 and Reading 2 are provided to give workshop facilitators a broad knowledge base from which they can draw for coastal and marine studies, and to highlight the values behind the concept of a sustainable environment. Facilitators might also find a selection of the OHT Masters located at the back of this manual useful in preparing the mini-lecture.

Note: Instead of a mini-lecture, it may be appropriate at this point in the workshop to have a guest lecture by a local authority on coastal and marine environments. See Module 4 for ideas on accessing and using guest speakers.


The aim of the presentation will vary depending upon the backgrounds of participants and the goals of the workshop. Possible aims include: to provide an overview of basic concepts in coastal geomorphology, and/or ecology, oceanography, coastal management, etc; to stimulate interest in local planning issues; etc.

  • Explain that the scope of coastal and marine studies is very broad. The marine and coastal environment is critical to the natural and cultural heritage of the world. The link between terrestrial and marine environments through catchments means that all human activities have an impact on marine and coastal environments. (Readings 1 and 2; OHT 3 - 8)

  • Outline the four components (political, social, economic and biophysical) of marine and coastal environments. Explain that all of these components can be addressed in a variety of subject areas and that this aspect of coastal and marine studies is addressed in Module 3. See Readings 1 and 2; Resource 2 and OHT 9 in this module for further information..

  • Explain that several values related to these four components of marine and coastal environments underlie their sustainability. These values are Democratic Decision-Making, Appropriate Development, Conservation and Social Justice (OHT 10).

Note: An interesting activity to add at this point could be a case study of a sustainable coastal community that lives by these values. For example, you could show the video Saltwater Dreaming (GBRMPA, 1996) which focuses on traditional and contemporary Aboriginal people's uses of coastal and marine environments.

  • Explain that the United Nation's Agenda 21, developed at the Earth Summit in 1992, gives education an important role in promoting sustainability of all environments (OHT 11).

  • Outline the 'three As' of coastal and marine studies (OHT 12). These lead into more detailed educational objectives for coastal and marine studies (OHT 13).

  • Conclude the mini-lecture by reviewing the four components of a sustainable environment (OHT 10) and the importance of the marine and coastal environments for all people.

3. The Scope of Coastal and Marine Studies

A. An Ocean Web: Exploring the Links

This activity provides a practical way of exploring, in detail, the inter-connections and relationships between the various dimensions (physical, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, ecological) and themes in the coastal and marine environment.

The activity involves participants in identifying and negotiating links between these themes and dimensions. Participants become representatives of various coastal and marine themes and, when links are found between different themes, these are indicated by wrapping wool around their representatives. By the end of this activity a web of different coloured wools offers a very effective visual representation of the interconnected nature of themes in coastal and marine studies.

The following instructions are written for a group of up to 30 participants. If your group is smaller or larger, you will need to make appropriate adjustments to the number of themes and to group sizes.


  • The following facilities/materials are required:

    • A large open space, eg. outdoors on the beach, or a cleared room
    • 10 balls of wool, each of a different colour
    • 10 pens for recording
    • both notepaper and either butcher's paper or chart paper
    • labels

  • The following ten themes should be written (a) on top of separate pieces of chart paper as a heading and (b) on the name labels (3 labels per theme):

    • Indigenous Interests
    • Contaminants
    • Transport
    • Introduced Species
    • Recreation and Tourism
    • Marine Protected Areas
    • Urban Development
    • Fishing
    • Catchment Management and Water Quality
    • Biodiversity

Facilitators should familiarise themselves with the scope and importance of these themes by reading Resource 2 (which will be used in the mini-lecture at the end of the activity).

Obtain ten different coloured balls of wool and ten pens/crayons which approximately match these colours. Facilitators will also need enough labels for each person in the group.

Running the Activity

  • If you are conducting the activity indoors, put the ten pieces of butcher's paper up on the wall so that they surround the room (see diagram below). If you are conducting the activity outdoors, a clipboard will be necessary for each group. Explain that this activity focuses on ten social and environmental themes relevant to coastal and marine studies. Display the ten themes on OHT 14.

  • Split participants into ten groups with a minimum of three people in each one. Each group should be given one of the themes and their theme labels to wear for the activity

  • Ask each group to record on their note paper (do not use the prepared chart paper yet) as much as they know about the topic. They should include things such as the extent, causes and solutions to the problems that are encompassed by their topics.

  • Then ask each group to consider how its theme is related to any of the other themes - possibly as a cause and/or effect.

  • For the next part of the activity, each group chooses one person to act as their 'static negotiator' (SN). The role of the SN is to stay with the chart paper and negotiate links between the other themes with 'mobile negotiators' from other groups (see diagram).

This activity is reproduced with permission from Pike, G. and Selby, D. (1988)
Global Teacher, Global Learner
, Hodder and Stoughton, London
  • The ten SNs should stand beside their pieces of chart paper, forming a large circle approximately 5-6 metres across.

  • Each SN then ties a coloured ball of wool around his/her waist and holds on to the ball.

  • The other two members of each group become 'mobile negotiators' (MN). Their task is to move around the circle (with the ball of wool and coloured pen that represents their own theme) and liaise with the other nine SNs to determine whether a link exists between their two themes. If a link is negotiated, then the MNs theme and the reasons why there is a link between the two themes should be written on the chart paper.

  • Once the link has been established by both groups, the MN loops the ball of wool around the appropriate SNs waist. The wool is then taken back to the original SN and looped around him/her as well. In this way a physical link is made between the two themes.

  • The process is repeated as many times as possible. Ask the SNs to make sure that the wool is kept taut at all times.

  • When all the possible links have been made, the SNs sit down where they are, keeping the wool taut. The MNs sit beside or behind them. The end result is called an "ocean web".


  • Discuss the connections that were made by the groups. Questions for discussion might include:

    • How many connections/links did each group make?

    • Were some links more important than others?

    • Which groups decided that links did not exist between them and why?

    • Are there links to other themes that are not covered by this activity?

    • How do these links affect the way in which coastal and marine problems are tackled and addressed- in environmental management? In education?

B. Mini-lecture

A possible conclusion to this activity is a mini-lecture which provides details on the themes in coastal and marine studies explored in this activity. Use Resource 2 and OHT 14.

4. Conclusion

The workshop concludes with a second tea party (Activity 1). This helps participants to review their personal developments in learning as a result of the workshop.

  • Using a fresh set of the copies of Resource 1, if needed, and the same process as for the tea party (Activity 1), participants 'revisit' each question and discuss how (or if) their understandings of the related issues have changed or developed as a result of the workshop activities.

  • As well as helping participants to review their professional development through this evaluation activity, it could help the workshop leader gain insight into the effectiveness of the workshop in achieving its aims and objectives.