Introducing the Seven Principles of Ocean Literacy with KELP - Sailors for the Sea

Introducing the Seven Principles of Ocean Literacy with KELP

 March 7, 2024  | By: Jennifer Brett

At Sailors for the Sea, part of our mission is to educate and inspire the next generation of sailors and ocean stewards. The ocean is critical to life on our planet, and understanding this at an early age can help kids form personal connections with the underwater world. 

girl jumping off sailboat
Just jump in! The more kids understand the ocean, the more they want to protect it.

Around the world, however, research has shown that children have limited knowledge about the ocean because marine science topics are absent in most school curricula. Ocean-related educational resources can be tricky to find or access, and that’s where our Kids Environmental Lesson Plans can help. Through our KELP program, we provide resources for parents and teachers to teach kids about ocean literacy.

Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you, and your influence on the ocean. There are seven essential principles of ocean literacy that were developed by the Ocean Literacy Network, a team of individuals and organizations including NOAA and the National Marine Educators Association. Each of our KELP activities touches upon at least one of the principles — all while kids are having fun!

Here are the seven essential principles of ocean literacy and examples of KELP activities that can teach them:

1. The Earth has one big ocean with many features.

Picture this: a vast expanse of blue stretching as far as the eye can see, connecting continents and cultures alike. The ocean is not merely a collection of separate bodies of water but a unified entity that sustains life on Earth. Teaching children this principle can foster a sense of interconnectedness and instill an appreciation for the ocean’s significance.

KELP Activity: “Everything Flows Downstream,” illustrates what a watershed is and how everyone is responsible for protecting waterways from pollution.

2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.

From coral reefs to towering coastal cliffs, the ocean and its inhabitants sculpt our planet’s landscape. By understanding the intricate relationship between oceanic processes and terrestrial formations, children gain insight into the profound influence of the sea on our environment.

KELP Activity: A “Story of Sand” explores the many sources of sand – biologic, geologic and manmade. By studying sand samples, kids will learn that depending on where you are in the world, sand may be made up of a combination of broken rocks, corals and/or shells.

snowy mountains near ocean

3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.

As sailors, we intimately understand the impact of oceanic currents and temperatures on weather patterns. Helping kids understand the ocean’s role in regulating climate can empower them to become informed stewards of our planet and advocates for climate action.

KELP Activity: “Seasonality in the Ocean” explores the concept of seasons in the ocean and introduces students to using oceanic data, such as sea surface temperatures (SST) and sea surface color from chlorophyll.

4. The ocean makes Earth habitable.

Take a deep breath. Did you know that much of the air you breathe comes from the ocean? Phytoplankton are estimated to produce about half of the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis. By teaching kids about the ocean’s crucial role in sustaining life, we can inspire them to protect this invaluable resource.

KELP Activity: In “What’s Hiding in Your Water,” kids can build a plankton net and discover the tiny creatures living in both marine environments and freshwater lakes and streams.

 5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.

Beneath the surface lies a world of unparalleled diversity, teeming with an array of species and ecosystems. Through this principle, kids can learn the importance of biodiversity and the fragile balance of the ocean’s ecosystems.

KELP Activity: “How Long am I” helps kids to visualize how big ocean creatures, such as blue whales, really are.

blue whale
Blue whales are the largest animals to ever live on the planet, reaching maximum lengths of 110 feet.

6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.

Whether for trade, recreation, or sustenance, humans rely on the ocean in myriad ways. By fostering an understanding of this interconnectedness, we can cultivate a sense of responsibility and stewardship towards the ocean.

KELP Activity: In “Deadliest Catch,” kids can learn about the impacts that advanced fishing technologies can have on fish stocks.

7. The ocean is largely unexplored.

Despite centuries of maritime exploration, most of the ocean remains unexplored and unmapped. By igniting kids’ curiosity about the mysteries that lie beneath the waves, we can inspire the next generation of oceanographers, explorers, and innovators.

KELP Activity: In “Whale of a View,” kids can build a “monocular” and discover what it’s like to see the world from the perspective of a whale!