Module 11

 Module 11 Home

Early Years
Marine Education




1 Introduction

2 Inspiration, Issues and Concepts

3 The Early Years Learner, Teaching Strategies and Curriculum Approaches

4 Learning Experiences Across the Curriculum and Resources

5 Conclusion


Activity 1 Introduction

A. Icebreaker

The object of this game is to divide the large group of participants into smaller groups of 3-5 people and to encourage people to communicate with one another and share some of their thoughts about the marine and coastal environment.


Ask the participants to stand and to choose between water and sand. Suggest they imagine being at the beach; where would they choose to be? Direct those that chose sand to one end of the room and those that chose water to the other end. Ask the participants in each respective group to discuss among themselves why they chose water or sand. Allow 3-5 minutes for this discussion. Then, approach each group in turn and ask them to repeat the process, this time suggesting that the water group choose between surf and rock pools, and the sand group choose between dunes and flat sand. Again they need to physically move apart and allow 3-5 minutes for discussion.


Depending on the starting size of the group the process may need to be repeated again to reduce the groups to a size suitable for small group discussion. Further alternatives could be surf winter or summer time, rock pools high tide or low tide, dunes bare or vegetated, flat sand wet or dry.


B. Issues and values, where do you stand?

Ask the small groups formed by the process above to identify and list what they see as marine and coastal issues. Then, ask each small group to choose one particular issue that they would like to put to the whole group to ascertain people's opinions, and to nominate a spokesperson. Bring all participants together in a circle and identify an imaginary line across the room, preferably between two readily identifiable spots such as a door and a window. Indicate a scale of one to ten along the line from most concerned about to least concerned about.

In turn each spokesperson briefly states the issue identified by their group and invites all participants to stand along the imaginary line according to their level of concern about the issue identified. There is likely to be much jostling and informal debate along the way as each is raised.


C. Summing up

Invite participants to share what they have gained from these initial activities. One of the key points should be that we are all different, bringing different values, feelings, experiences and perspectives to the subject of marine and coastal education. And, just as adults differ in these respects, so do the young children we teach. This needs to be acknowledged in the teaching strategies, curriculum approaches and learning experiences employed.


D. Workshop objectives and outline

Display OHT 1A which lists the objectives of the workshop and OHT 1B which outlines the workshop activities.



Activity 2: Inspiration, Issues and Concepts

The purpose of this activity is to tune participants into the marine environment. Through simple activities, you will help them to consider the land and sea links, the richness of Australia's oceans' and coasts' biodiversity, and the significance of the oceans to all of us. Together you will create a big picture. You will finish with five major marine education concepts. These will be explored through a series of short activities which will raise some of the marine and coastal issues culminating in conservation.

A. Tune in to why it is important to teach marine education

A journey to our ocean land and sea links

Play a tape of sea sounds eg Brunch on the Barrier Reef (Big Toe Productions, Mullumbimby 1992). Ask participants to sit comfortably and then close their eyes and open their minds to take themselves on a journey to the ocean. Read the story provided in Resource 2A.


Australia an island continent on an ocean planet

Ask participants to sit where they can see a large piece of paper or white board. Explain to them that together you are going to set the marine scene of Australia. Ask for a couple of helpers to be the scribes. Supply them with pens. Ask a series of the following questions. Ask the scribes to sketch in as much as possible to create a large picture of Australia's marine environment: (Resource 2B, a mud map, will act as a rough guide to help create the drawing)

Why is our world sometimes called the blue planet?
Answer: Because about two thirds of it is covered in ocean (scribe sketches an Australian outline)

What islands are part of Australia?
Answer: Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Cocos, Christmas, Torres Strait Islands.

What oceans surround Australia?
Answer: Pacific, Indian and Southern.

When we think about Australian waters we think about two major biographical zones, what are these?

Answer: The temperate south and the tropical north.

Where do the warm waters meet the cool waters?

Answer: Cape Byron NSW and Shark Bay WA.

What are some of the features of the Warm Tropical north?
Answer: Reefs, mud flats, mangroves forests.

What are some of the features of the Cool Temperature South?
Answer: Giant kelp forests, seagrass meadows, seamounts.

What and where do some of our amazing resident marine animals and plants live?

Answer: Turtles, dugongs, seals, crocodiles, corals, seaweeds.

Where do some of the visiting marine animals go?
Answer: Nesting seabirds (mainly North, East and West coasts) humpback whales (West and East coasts), southern right whales (Southern Australia, whale sharks (WA).

Where do most of the people live?
Answer: Near the coast.

The hidden wealth of the oceans

Explain to the participants that there is a hidden wealth to our oceans. Not only is it special for its biological diversity as shown above, but also a healthy ocean is extremely important to each and every one of us. (Display OHT 2A) It governs the weather and climate; drives the water cycle; generates most of the world’s oxygen; absorbs carbon dioxide; provides us with food, medicines, oils, gas and minerals, and we use it for transport, recreation and tourism; contains most of the life on earth; and promotes inspiration and wellbeing.

B. Consider what to teach for marine education

Marine education concepts

This activity now moves on from why it is important to teach marine education to the next step of considering what to teach. One approach to this, relevant for young learners, is to work with five main marine education concepts: Diversity, Interrelations, Adaptation, Change and Conservation.

The marine and coastal environment is made up of variety of ecosystems and habitats. These are the home to plants, animals and microorganisms. Together they form our rich marine and coastal biological diversity.

As the plants, animals and microorganisms share the living and non-living components of their environment, they are constantly interacting with each other. They form interrelating communities and complex webs of life.

For successful life in the coastal and ocean habitats, the plants, animals and microorganisms must adapt to the conditions of their environment. They have developed special features and behaviours that help them to find food, shelter and mates to survive.

The marine and coastal environment is in continual phases of daily, seasonal and cyclic change.

Human actions have a significant impact on the marine and coastal environment. Therefore we all have a role to play in conservation. We need to develop understanding, positive attitudes and actions to help nurture clean, healthy, alive and living coasts and oceans.

(Resource 2C or OHT 2B are copies of these concepts. They are suitable for use as an overhead or to make a photocopy enlargement into a poster for display during the workshop)


Activities to explore marine education concepts

Provide participants with copies of Resource 2D. Ask participants to take part in one of these short activities (or all if you have time) to illustrate further the five major marine and coastal concepts. On completion of the activity, ask each group to explain their activity to the whole group.




Participants think of a marine or coastal habitat, animal, plant or microorganism. See if they can follow from A to Z. Keep it moving, allow people to say pass, continue until you reach Z. Eg abalone, beach, crab, dune, eagle etc.




Participants pass around a folded sheet of paper. The paper is folded (concertina folds) so there are six faces. This will mean that for each five people you will need one folded sheet. The sun is written on the first face. Each person in turn opens to the next face and writes in the next organism in the marine food web eg sun, plankton, pilchard, tuna, and dolphin. Open out the webs and ask the last participant to read out their web.




Participants prepare to draw an imaginary animal, (they will need pencil and paper). They will draw the creature as they listen to a description of its habitat. The animal will evolve in their minds with each piece of information they hear. One person reads out the habitat, pausing so there is time to draw the animals body shape and adaptations.

Participants show the final picture to the people sitting next to them. `This animal lives in a marine habitat that has a vast expanse of shallow water, doubling in depth with the high tide. With low tide this habitat becomes very hot and light. There is no escaping the sun. The bottom of this habitat has fist size, rounded rocks covered in algae. Once a day large schools of bucket fish swarm past preying on this animal. The habitat is close to the shore and there are always people near by. At night dingoes come out of the dunes, they sniff at the animal but they would never dare to try and eat it!'




Participants form small groups of about five, to develop and perform charades. They act out an example of change that occurs in the marine or coastal environment. Egs Rising tide on open beach; Coral spawning; People walking on dunes and not on the marked track, 4-wheel drive vehicles on the beach; Evolution of whales moving from land to sea animals; Migrating birds arriving from a long journey; Mangrove seed washes up on beach.




Participants form small groups and write a report card on one of the issue from the 1996, Australian Government State of the Environment Report. Participants will need a copy of the State of the Environment Report and the report sheet, (Resource 2E & 2F). Participants choose an issue from the State of the Environment Report and fill in a report card for that issue. At the end each group can explain their issue and report card to the whole group.


Report Card Headings are: Key findings/Issue from SOE Report; List some of the issues arising from that finding; List some of the impacts these issues would have on the marine and coastal environment; List actions that people can take to help manage these issues.

Activity 3: The Early Years Learner,
Teaching Strategies and Curriculum Approaches

A. Characteristics of the early years learner

Invite participants to draw on their experience working with young children and/or their reading to identify some of the characteristics of children aged 5-8 years. Participants could work in pairs and should note down their ideas as quickly as possible. Ask participants to contribute their ideas and collate a list of characteristics on a white board. Compare the list produced to OHT 3A, which is a list of characteristics drawn from Bredekamp (1987).

B. Teaching strategies

Display OHT 3B which summarises appropriate teaching strategies and extend upon as follows. Participants may wish to contribute their own ideas too.

• Encourage full use of senses

We need to cater for sensory learning by providing experiences which encourage children to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the elements of nature. Experiences which enhance sensory perceptions are far more likely to assist children (and adults) in gaining a “passion” for all things in the natural world.

• Modelling appropriate attitudes

Environmental care can be directly modelled by significant adults in a child’s life. Adults can:

… model curiosity — “I wonder why crabs like to hide under rocks?”
… model attitudes of respect — “That is a very special beach treasure. Let’s leave it here so that someone else may enjoy it.”
… model an appreciation of the wonders of nature - “I love lying in the warm sand, closing my eyes and listening to the sounds of the sea.”
… model the practising of skills — “This is hard work, but our new coastal garden will soon be planted out.”

By choosing lifestyles and practices which are environmentally sensitive we as adults are able to teach by example. By ensuring that children have the opportunity to participate in a variety of experiences we can hope that they receive a variety of positive messages, For example, creating a coastal garden and sharing this experience with a young child can serve to illustrate to children how they have the ability to be agents of change.

• Focus on positive, caring behaviours

We need to demonstrate to children a sense of wonder and enquiry about living things. We must also demonstrate and encourage respect and responsible action. eg. Whilst observing molluscs in a rockpool ask children: “Do you think we should move these snails to another pool? How would you feel if somebody shifted you from your home and left you in a new neighbourhood?”

It is important to reinforce to children that they are part of the natural world and that they can take some responsibility for its care. However, it is also important not to overburden children with feelings of responsibility for the state of the environment. We need to build on the natural optimism of children, reinforce positive attitudes and emphasise the ways in which the children themselves can protect marine life and environments.

• Consider an integrated curriculum

As educators it is important that we provide a wide range of experiences and provide opportunities to express these in a variety of ways.

Extend sensory explorations by integrating them into as many other areas as possible. The Arts, English, Health and Physical Education, Science, Languages Other Than English (LOTE), Mathematics, Studies of Society and the


Environment (SOSE), and Technology may all be incorporated into appropriate learning experiences. Allow opportunities for children to explore for themselves, working individually or in small groups.

• Involve families

Parents and guardians are the child's first and foremost teachers. Meaningful involvement will hopefully lead to positive, attitudes and behaviours being reinforced in the home environment.

• Provide indoor & outdoor learning experiences

Allow children to make incidental and planned discoveries by creating spaces for creative and constructive learning with marine related equipment and specimens. Refer to An Octopus's Garden for ideas.
Blend music and movement or promote physical activity by way of marine related games.

• Allow for different combinations of students

Early learners respond to a variety of combinations of student groupings. Provision should be made for large and small groups as well as opportunities for individual experiences. Small group discussions may lead to information sharing, issue debates such as the dilemmas of shell collecting or games with a marine focus.

• Provide first hand experience

One of the most immediate ways we can do this is by actually visiting the environments in question: the sandy beaches, the rocky shores, the creeks, wetlands and mudflats. Visiting coastal areas is the ideal and most powerful way of providing meaningful, sensory experiences.
Marine education programs can also be expanded and enhanced with visits to a variety of excursion venues such as: aquariums, museums and maritime centres, marine field centres, fishing villages, and water transport centres.

• Allow for appropriate incursions

Visits from a variety of groups are sometimes able to be arranged so as to avoid the costs and other problems associated with group excursions. Talks given by local field naturalists and performances given by various creative arts groups are often able to extend the basic perceptions of the marine world. Unfortunately, few opportunities exist where an education officer with live animals and specimens is able to visit. However, there is a marine education kit which can be borrowed from either the Marine Discovery Centre in Queenscliff, Victoria, or Underwaterworld in Mooloolaba, Queensland.

An Octopus's Garden consists of two main components. The first is the Resource Materials Kit which comprises a variety of animal specimens and supporting educational aids. The second is the Resource Guide which is designed to provide teachers with strategies and ideas to assist them in planning and implementing an integrated approach to marine education.

Activity 4: Learning Experiences
across the Curriculum and Resources

Display the resources collected, OHT 4 National Curriculum Profile Key Learning Areas and circulate copies of Resource 4. Based on the resources available and their own experience, invite participants to work individually or in small groups to develop learning experiences for several of the National Curriculum Profile Key Learning Areas

Allow 15-20 minutes, then share the work completed with a brief discussion at the end of the activity.

During the discussion it is important to review the experiences critically with respect to the points already covered about appropriate marine education concepts and strategies for the age group.


Activity 5: Conclusion

To conclude, brainstorm on a whiteboard as a whole group: ‘What are the take home messages in marine education?’

Then, ask participants to tell the person next to them one thing they intend to do to implement marine education in their workplace.