The Ocean Foundation’s Community Ocean Engagement Global Initiative (COEGI) is dedicated to supporting the development of marine education community leaders and empowering students of all ages to translate ocean literacy into conservation action.
If more marine educators are trained to teach people of all ages about the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean – and in a way that effectively inspires individual action – then society as a whole will be better equipped to make informed decisions that protect ocean health.
Our vision is to create equitable access to marine education programs and careers around the world.
We can make a difference for ocean health.
We need more ocean literate people to be equipped to take action to protect, conserve, and restore what is left.
We all benefit from and rely on the ocean, even if we don’t know that we do. Ocean conservation is a shared responsibility of everyone in the global community. As many people as possible should understand how the ocean works, and that we have the chance to both damage or improve the ecosystem. We need more ocean literate people, who have the knowledge to protect and conserve ocean health.
Photo courtesy of Living Coast Discovery Center
Inclusivity and fair representation help generate the awareness and excitement that propel people into successful careers. Thus, our first step is making sure that the marine education community reflects the broad array of coastal and ocean perspectives, values, voices, and cultures around the world. Those who have traditionally been excluded from marine education as a career pathway – or from the marine sciences in general –need access to training, capacity building, and career opportunities in this field. This requires proactively reaching out, listening, and engaging diverse individuals both within and beyond the field of ocean literacy.
We also need to disrupt the way the marine education community instructs students. Memorization of facts and concepts is a thing of the past. For the next generation to manage the effects of a changing ocean and climate, they need basic education and training. Equipping students with these tools will help them understand not only what the ocean does and how it works, but why and how our actions as individuals are influencing it – for better or worse. Most importantly, audiences of all ages need to be empowered to take creative approaches to conservation action. If we all make small changes in our everyday lives, we can see colossal change.
Changing the way we train marine educators can help develop more ocean literate people. However, the solution is not as simple as just understanding more about our relationship with the ocean. When we know more about the ocean’s influence on us, and our influence on the ocean, this empowers us to incorporate conservation action from wherever we sit. By better equipping people to take action from their individual spheres of influence, and shift the way we train marine educators toward optimism and behavior change, we can create a multitude of pressure points that tackle the challenge of ocean health from various paths.
Each of us has a role to play.
But we can’t work everywhere at once. Access to ocean literacy as a field of study and a viable career pathway has historically been inequitable. Thus, some communities need this support more than others. COEGI focuses on coastal communities in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico, who feel the disproportionate effects of climate change and have a more direct relationship to and reliance on the ocean. These are also places that we as The Ocean Foundation know best, from our more than 20 years of experience building capacity, facilitating collaborative research, and restoring coastal ecosystems in these areas.
To provide the most effective educational training, COEGI:
Works with educators and community leaders
to incorporate the key elements of ocean literacy into their existing curricula, installations, or programs, with an emphasis on individual action to solve local conservation problems. Participants, primarily early-career and aspiring marine educators, receive the tools to consider what actions to take to move the needle on ocean health. Participants will also be equipped to deliver effective, action-oriented marine education lessons tailored to meet the unique needs of target audiences, which may include: K-12 Students, Community Members, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Tourists, Volunteers, and the General Public. COEGI will not be working with the above secondary audiences directly, in line with our “train the trainer” approach.
Who are Marine Educators?
Marine educators work in a variety of creative ways to promote ocean literacy. They can be K-12 classroom teachers, informal educators (educators that deliver lessons outside of the traditional classroom setting, such as in the outdoors, community centers, or beyond), university professors, scientists, and more. Marine educators teach people of all ages about the ocean’s influence on us, and our influence on the ocean, to advance global understanding and protection of marine ecosystems. Their methods may include classroom instruction and outdoor education that combines educational material with direct engagement with the ocean (such as naturalist-led kayaking programs, surfing, snorkeling, etc.), virtual learning, exhibit presentations, and more.
Builds lasting relationships
between educators from different regions and across disciplines. This community-building approach helps participants establish a network to open doors for funding, job opportunities, and professional growth.
Photo courtesy of Anna Mar / Ocean Connectors
Trains and empowers individuals
who are typically underrepresented in the field of marine education, to create a window of opportunity for career paths they may have never considered before.
In the years to come, we also strive to influence job creation and placement by introducing COEGI “graduates” to our network and fund community-based education projects, enabling our trainees to spread ocean literacy even further.
COEGI Certificate Program
The COEGI Certificate Program – coupled with mentorship –provides marine educators with a new certification that changes the way they approach education. The certification, in partnership with education institutions, provides an additional credential that opens the door for job opportunities. Early-career and aspiring marine educators who may lack the resources (e.g. academic history, funding, and proximity, among others) to obtain a college degree can obtain a COEGI certificate that demonstrates qualifications in the field of ocean education.
As a community foundation, we develop networks and bring people together. This starts by allowing communities to define and dictate their local needs and their own paths to effect change. COEGI is recruiting mentors from diverse populations to match against our mentees and build a community of ocean literacy practitioners that share information and lessons learned across careers. If you are interested in becoming a COEGI mentor, please contact Frances Lang at [email protected].
The Bigger Picture
One of the most significant barriers to progress in the marine conservation sector is a lack of real understanding about the importance, vulnerability, and connectivity of ocean systems. Research shows that the public is not well-equipped with knowledge about ocean issues, and access to ocean literacy as a field of study and viable career pathway has historically been inequitable.
COEGI is part of our contribution to a larger global community of people working to educate and promote action for ocean health. The deep, lasting relationships developed through this initiative will uniquely position COEGI participants to pursue successful marine education careers, and will contribute to making the overall field of ocean conservation more equitable and effective for years to come.
To learn more about COEGI, sign up for our newsletter and check the “Ocean Literacy” box:
Read our most recent newsletter detailing some of our summer 2022 highlights.
TOF has initiated an RFP to identify youth curriculum authors between the ages of 13-25 for the production of a “youth ocean action toolkit”.
Ocean Literacy and Conservation Behavior Change
Our ocean literacy research page provides current data and trends regarding ocean literacy and behavior change and identifies gaps that we can fill within COEGI.