I have been fortunate enough to spend the last three weeks or so living by the sea in a coastal town in which I spent many glorious childhood summers. In fact, like many others, the sea has always been a part of my life. It is palpably restorative and endlessly fascinating. Some of my most creative ideas have come to me while walking the cliff tops of this coastal inlet- I feel indebted to the coast in a way I can't explain.
So it has been a source of acute sadness this summer to notice how bereft the beaches here seem to be of once abundant shells and other signs of marine life. Sure - there is still lots to see and discover but it seems every one of the favourite places I return to are denuded, pale imitations of what they once were. I am trying to tell myself that this is all part of the cycles of nature...things come and go, tides shift populations, its seasonal, it's because of all the tourists.....but I fear something far more worrying is happening. I am deeply troubled.
For many years, I worked in the environmental education movement and developed curriculum programs for schools. My favourite thing to encourage kids to inquire into remains the natural world. It is one of the very best contexts for true inquiry. This year, I feel the strongest urge I have felt for a long time to use my influence as a teacher to help connect kids with this beautiful, precious planet. And how easy it is to do that. SO many kids tell me they want to learn about animals - about nature, about living things. But it is not just learning ABOUT the natural world that is important - it is learning IN it and FOR it...combining knowledge, feeling, experience and action.
The best way to encourage people to work together to care for our precious oceans is to help them discover the ocean's beauty and its power - and to help kids understand just how connected to and dependent we are on the sea.
One of my favourite inquiry questions is just that: "How are we connected to the sea?" This is as important a question for kids living in coastal areas as it is for those that might be in a remote inland town far, far away from the ocean. We are all connected.
If you are thinking ahead about your year... and the kinds of inquiries you might engage your students in, consider an inquiry into the ocean - and our connection to it - as one of your learning contexts. Resources abound. There is no shortage of experts and organisations and plenty of rock pools still left to gaze upon in wonder. If you are asking yourself : What's worth inquiring into? You might find this video clip helps answer that question. How will your teaching contribute to the imperative to care for this precious blue planet in 2018?