Steve Savage, Biologist, Environmental Educator and Author, writes about the One World One Ocean project and the key role of Ed the Bear.
One World One Ocean links UK schools with ocean scientists around the world and creates real time events that are shared with schools. The project also provides opportunities for scientists, climatologists, marine archaeologists and conservationists to share their knowledge and experiences with a new audience.
Concerned about the possible threat to his local beach, Ed the Bear visits ocean experts to find out about the global conservation threats and on the way experiences an amazing adventure of discovery. An exciting dimension of the project is that Ed the Bear visits real scientists around the world (e.g. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric scientists) who share their knowledge and provide a chance for Ed to experience this too so he can share his encounters with schools. The project is very visual and children enjoy seeing the many images of Ed the Bear on his travels. The ‘bear’ that visits their class also creates a physical link for the children. He is the bear that sat on the ice with penguins in Antarctica, came face to face with great white sharks in South Africa, dived on coral reefs and shipwrecks with his (real) diving bell.
Discovering the world through the eyes of this character helps to create a sense of amazement and wonder. Teachers have also told us that Ed the Bear helps the children relate to distant habitats (coral reefs, Antarctica) through his first hand experiences. Schools have engaged with the project in many ways but the majority of schools do so as a science/literacy project.
Ed is not an expert and so he asks the questions we would all like to know the answer to and when sharing he explains things in a simplified way, stimulates interest and speaks with his own passion.
At Georgian House Primary School, Worthing, West Sussex, with Year 6 pupils, we focused on the importance of oceans, marine biodiversity and plastic debris pollution. We began by working with the whole year group to introduce oceans as a home to a rich biodiversity and how we all rely on the oceans: they regulate our climate and weather, provide oxygen and freshwater, food, minerals, medicines.
The students rotated around two activities. The first was about plastics and their uses, with a debate about ‘why plastic is a good invention’, the other ‘why plastic is a bad invention’. Discussion included what plastic is made of, how recycling plastic contributes to reduce pollution and save resources such as crude oil. The problem of plastic in the oceans highlighted real examples from Ed the Bear’s travels – including animals ingesting plastic or entanglements such as the plastic strapping removed from cape fur seals when Ed was in South Africa.
The second activity was a teacher led activity about the plight of the Laysan Albatross, in the Hawaiian Islands. In a Powerpoint, Ed was wearing a necklace made from a ring band that scientists had placed on an albatross chick that had died by swallowing plastic. In pairs, students selected cards – some food items, other man-made debris of various sizes. Each child took a card in turn to see if they had collected food or plastic for their chick.
At the end of the activity, when all the cards had been used, the pupils were encouraged to speculate if their chick survived. They were asked to list the items swallowed by albatross chicks that most surprised them, which included disposable lighters, plastic toys, a toothbrush and a golf tee.
At the end of the day one of the teachers said: “You have touched on all the topics we intend to cover for the rest of the term”.
For more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Ed’s website.
This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 106). To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.