A joint initiative of Dalhousie University, the Ocean Frontier Institute, Ingenium and the National Film Board of Canada, Ocean School is a groundbreaking immersive learning experience designed to spark interest in ocean science and advance ocean literacy.
The goal? To better understand how we shape the ocean, and how the ocean shapes us. This exciting journey of discovery invites users to virtually join renowned renowned experts on scientists on ocean expeditions across Canada and around the globe. Led by Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, the expeditions will take place on Canada’s three oceans and their coastal regions (Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic) as well as its inland ocean, the Great Lakes. A few adventures will unfold further afield, namely on Cocos Island (Costa Rica) and in the Azores (Portugal) and Indonesia. By redefining the way we engage with science and learn about the ocean, Ocean School seeks to create the next generation of ocean leaders.
Ocean School’s overarching goal is simple: to create a generation of ocean-literate citizens. A generation who will better understand our impact on the ocean and the ocean’s impact on us. Dr. Boris Worm (Dalhousie University) and producer Paul McNeill (National Film Board), the initiators of the project, looked out at the ocean in Duncan’s Cove, Nova Scotia, and dreamt of a dynamic educational experience that would inspire young minds and transform their relationship with the ocean and its many inhabitants.
The Ocean School team works at the intersection of science, education and storytelling. Given the calibre of the people involved and the strength of their commitment, that intersection is a pretty exciting place to be. When we began creating Ocean School, we set a few ambitious goals:
- To follow real scientists doing real science, and bring their essential work to a wider audience;
- To find meaningful ways to bring cutting-edge technologies into the classroom;
- To create an integrated educational experience that’s innovative, immersive and delightful.
I believe I speak for the entire Ocean School team when I state that, when we started, we didn’t know what we were getting into. This is a unique, complex project created by a multidisciplinary team, spread out across the country, who shared a common passion for discovery, and I cannot pass up this opportunity to thank each and every one of them—the experts, storytellers, editors, writers, boat captains, oyster farmers and hundreds of other people who have been involved in Ocean School in one way or another.
Producer’s notes like this one are usually written when a project has been completed, but Ocean School is just getting started. We have built this powerful, flexible, modular learning machine that places the learner at the centre of the learning. We can’t wait for people to take it for a spin and share with us what inspires them—and what we could do to make it better. This is the end of the beginning of Ocean School, and we hope you will join us on this journey.
Jac Gautreau, Executive Producer
Guided by an onscreen youth explorer, learners join ocean subject matter experts from academia, government, Indigenous communities, NGOs, industry, and other sectors/stakeholder groups in the field as they work together to tackle some of our most pressing questions about the ocean. While ocean science is the backbone of Ocean School’s educational content, the platform also integrates socioeconomic and cultural dimensions of the human relationship with the ocean, including Indigenous and traditional knowledge. This highlights the important cultural role of the ocean, and ensures scientific issues are put into the broader real-world context.
Ocean School strives for on-screen diversity in gender, ethnicity, educational background, geographic region and subject matter expertise. This promotes objectives in youth empowerment (especially for girls and under-represented populations) and provides exposure to a broad range of marine career paths. Ocean School encourages youth interest in STEM-related careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Immersive technologies provide learners with the tools and practices that scientists use every day.
1. What is Ocean School?
● Ocean School is a free, state-of-the-art learning experience that provides learners—the next generation of ocean citizens, innovators and decision-makers—with the knowledge and tools to investigate and design innovative solutions for the growing challenges facing the world’s ocean.
1b. How does it work?
● Ocean School is delivered through an innovative web platform that guides the learner through immersive media using short linear videos, VR, augmented reality, 360-degree cinema and more to explore and foster a deep engagement with ocean science and culture through an interdisciplinary perspective.
2. To whom is it dedicated?
● Ocean School’s target audience is students aged 11–15.
● However, its modular design and its customization capabilities allow teachers to adapt it for use n a variety of contexts, and for learners of all ages to use it outside of the classroom.
3. Who had the idea of creating Ocean School? And why?
● Dr. Boris Worm, a biology professor from Dalhousie University, and Paul McNeill, an NFB producer based in Halifax.
● Dr. Worm felt there was a gap in young people’s understanding of the ocean and that this was the most sustainable way to foster ocean literacy.
● The NFB was exploring new ways to create engaging and impactful educational content for students and teachers.
● Ocean School’s objective is to fill this gap and bring about a better understanding of our impact on the ocean and the ocean’s impact on us.
4. How does it compare to other sources of ocean literacy?
● To the best of our knowledge, it is currently the most comprehensive audiovisual learning experience using inquiry-based learning.
5. What are the new technologies used in the creation of this site?
● Ocean School utilizes cutting-edge technologies to engage students, including 360-degree video, linear video, virtual reality, augmented reality, apps, interactive games, text and photo-based articles.
● Ocean School is fully integrated with Google Classroom to support class administration, assignments and lesson techniques.
● It can also be used by teachers and students who do not have access to Google Classroom.
6. What is inquiry-based learning?
● Inquiry-based learning (IBL) encourages students to take the lead in their learning experience. Asking their own questions, gathering evidence and taking action, learners practise the skills they need to participate in knowledge creation.
● Students and educators share responsibility for identifying issues affecting the ocean that students can investigate further. Together, they engage in critical thinking, collection and analysis of evidence, logical reasoning, and creative problem-solving.
7. How does Ocean School relate to my curriculum?
● Ocean School is designed for national and international audiences and draws inspiration from many curricula. It targets Grades 6 to 9 and is highly interdisciplinary, aiming to provide content for all subjects through an ocean lens.
● To help educators make links to their curriculum, each module guide describes big ideas and potential topic and curriculum links, along with the module-specific content and activities.
8. Who can register for Ocean School? Teachers? Parents? Kids?
● Ocean School is free to register to and explore for all!
● Teachers are encouraged to sign up and peruse the educator space, which includes many additional resources to support using Ocean School in the classroom with their students.
● Parents can also sign up as educators to support their kids for home-schooling and extracurricular learning.
● Any individual who is looking for an innovative tool to support their lifelong learning ambitions can register and explore as well!
9. Is Ocean School bilingual?
● Ocean School is fully bilingual and available in both English and French. We hope to add additional languages, including those spoken in Canada’s Indigenous communities, as Ocean School continues to grow and evolve.
10. Is Ocean School available around the world?
● Ocean School is not geo-blocked and is available for free around the world.
11. Who are the partners behind Ocean School?
● Ocean School is a unique partnership between Dalhousie University, under the auspices of the Ocean Frontier Institute, Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation, and the National Film Board of Canada Initial design of the Ocean School platform and the production of the Northwest Atlantic Unit of Ocean School were financially supported by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. We look forward to continuing our work with these partners, and to welcoming additional new partners to the Ocean School family.
11b. What are the partners’ respective roles and responsibilities?
● Dalhousie / Ocean Frontier Institute and the NFB have complementary competences.
● Dalhousie / Ocean Frontier Institute brings groundbreaking science as well as expertise and leadership in ocean literacy.
● The NFB brings state-of-the-art expertise in audiovisual production, public distribution and educational technology.
● This is the NFB’s most important institutional partnership and a historic renewal of its education offer.
● It is the Ocean Frontier Institute’s most ambitious educational outreach initiative, and is the cornerstone of their commitment to mobilizing ocean science knowledge and advancing ocean literacy.
● Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation joined the partnership in 2017 to provide expertise in master planning and exhibition design, production and operation that would feature Ocean School’s interactive and immersive audiovisual content.
12. Were teachers consulted in the development of Ocean School?
● Yes! Throughout the development of Ocean School, the team held several focus groups with prototypes across the country and tested in classrooms across four provinces. We regularly work with educators, consultants and education specialists.
13. What’s the role of CCUNESCO in Ocean School?
● The CCUNESCO proudly endorses Ocean School and is working with the Ocean School team to promote the use of the platform throughout the CCUNESCO’s network of schools in Canada.
14. Will Ocean School be available one day in an application?
● Certain activities allow pairing with mobile devices, to experience virtual reality, 360-degree and linear videos, and an augmented-reality app that takes viewers below the ocean’s surface.
● There are no immediate plans to make Ocean School available as an offline application at this time; due to its interconnectedness, a Wi-Fi connection is required. However, the team hopes to develop offline functionality in the future.
14b. What are the optimal browsers for Ocean School?
● Ocean School is a fully responsive HTML website that is accessible on Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer via desktops, laptops and tablets.
● The experience is optimized for Chromebooks.
15. Can special-needs students use it?
● Students who require support can use Ocean School. Educators may modify activities to better meet the needs of their students. Link Customizing Activities guide
● For students with an auditory impairment, there is closed captioning on the video content.
● All the activities are in Google Classroom and can be read with a screen reader.
16. How many scientific fields are taught through Ocean School?
● Ocean School covers a wide variety of subjects and disciplines—all through an ocean lens.
● Although STEM subjects are the backbone of Ocean School, these concepts are taught within the broader socio-economic and cultural context of the dynamic human relationship with the ocean. This includes additional content related to Traditional Knowledge, economics, the humanities and the social sciences, all of which help learners connect scientific concepts to real-world issues.
17. How could Ocean School enhance awareness about climate change? What will student learns through this experience?
● Students explore the impacts climate change is having on the ocean and the communities that depend on it, and work collaboratively to generate ideas for taking action in their own lives to address climate change.
Climate change is a cross-cutting theme in Ocean School. It is integrated into educational content and student reflection activities across all of Ocean School.
18. How many people would be able to use Ocean School at the same time?
The experience is web-based and the platform is built to scale. There is no limit to the number of participants.
19. How much does it cost to subscribe?
● Ocean School is available free of charge to all, thanks to a partnership among Dalhousie University, the Ocean Frontier Institute, Ingenium and the NFB.
20. What are your plans for the future of Ocean School?
● We have just completed preliminary filming for our first North Pacific Module in Bella Bella, British Columbia in collaboration with the Heiltsuk Nation, about salmon, as well as initial shoots in Vancouver, in collaboration with Ocean Wise as part of a future North Pacific Module on ocean plastics.
21. How have Indigenous perspectives been included?
● The Indigenous content in Ocean School was created with Indigenous artists, Elders, producers and educators in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia.
● In the platform and supporting documentation, Ocean School has included acknowledgements of the land and traditional territory in which we have collected our stories and science for our content. Where appropriate, we also strive to use Indigenous place names and language.
NEW NFB EDUCATION OFFER Q&A
22. What is the NFB’s new education offer?
● The NFB’s new education offer is a learning destination designed to cultivate engagement and inspire creativity through and around storytelling innovation and media arts.
● The NFB is developing online, media-based and interactive thematic learning programs that are founded on the NFB’s productions and that foster deep learning, creativity and student action.
23. For how long has the NFB provided an education offer to Canadian students?
● For more than 70 years, the NFB has been an essential resource for educators in Canada. It has developed longstanding relationships with Canadian teachers and others in the field of education.
● Educators throughout the country turn to the NFB as a trusted source of Canadian media content conducive to learning.
24. What are the components of the NFB education offer and what are the next ones to be launched?
● The NFB’s upcoming learning programs are:
– Media School (early Spring 2019)
– Indigenous Voices and Reconciliation (Fall 2019)
25. Why has the Quebec government selected CAMPUS as part of its new digital education platform offer?
● The purchase of a CAMPUS licence by the Fédération des Commissions Scolaires du Québec is part of the ministry of education’s digital action plan.
● The ministry sees potential in offering the collection, along with its accompanying resources and tools, as a way to integrate high-quality digital educational resources into teachers’ pedagogical practices.
Ocean School aims to build an ocean-literate society by challenging learners to think critically, ask questions, gather information, explore multiple perspectives and take positive actions to improve Canadian oceans and their interconnected ecosystems. Our goal is empowerment through action-driven inquiry-based learning, in order to bring about environmental and social change.
Inquiry-based learning (IBL) encourages students to take the lead in their learning experience. Posing their own questions and gathering evidence, learners practice the skills they need to participate in knowledge creation. On the Ocean School platform, the media experiences are designed to support open-ended investigations into a question or a problem. Students and educators share responsibility for identifying problems that students can investigate further. Together, they engage in critical thinking, collection and analysis of evidence, logical reasoning, and creative problem-solving.
Ocean School is free and features rich media experiences designed to foster deep engagement with current ocean challenges and solutions. Designed by education technology experts, in consultation with Canadian educators, the platform and its tools enable educators to push the boundary of inquiry-based learning—to harness learners’ experiences and creativity, and empower them to take increasingly higher responsibility for planning and assessing their own learning.
The Ocean School learning experience begins by presenting the learner with a critical challenge that guides their learning and ends with a “take action” on issues like habitat protection, sustainable fishing and traditional ways of knowing. Learners navigate the platform and its media rich learning objects with agency and purpose. Ocean School is integrated with Google Classroom so that educators have all the tools they need to gather evidence and assess learning without disrupting the learner’s action-inquiry experience.
The experience is currently available in French and English—with plans to add additional Indigenous and international languages. Primarily designed for classroom learners aged 11-15, the modular and flexible nature of the platform allows the resources to be tailored to the technology available, irrespective of their age and interests.
Ocean School will be distributed to Canadian classrooms via a Webbased platform, building on the National Film Board’s existing online educational offering, which currently reaches 4.1 million students —representing over 50% of total students in Canada—and more than 4.5 Canadians who can access NFB’s existing platform through their public libraries.
Onboard the Coast Guard vessel Martha Black and the support vessel LeeWay Odyssey, youth host Isabelle Hurley and Dr. Boris Worm explored the depths of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In Malpeque Bay, P.E.I., they surveyed marine habitats with scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and members of the community. They examined the impact of oyster aquaculture on eelgrass and ulva.
On Fogo Island, youth host Holly George and Boris, alongside local fishermen and scientists from Ocean Wise, the Marine Institute and DFO, explored the complexities of managing marine natural resources and the potential recovery of cod.
On Grand Manan Island, youth host Anisha Rajaselvam and Boris tried to find out why the right whales seemed to have stopped coming to the Bay of Fundy.