By Sonya Lee


My second day at the European Marine Science Educators Association conference at the Titanic Belfast museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland started with more amazing presentations. The rest of the day following was dedicated to an Open Space Session. Open Space is a time dedicated to allow conference participants a chance to discuss the topics and questions that have always wanted to discuss with fellow ocean educators. I think it is always the highlight of EMSEA and because I loved it so much last year, I added it to the conference program at the CaNOE conference in Halifax this past June.

Participants make suggestions of discussion topics on Post-Its and everyone signed up for their desired sessions at EMSEA Conference Day 2. Photo from the EMSEA Twitter @emseassociation.


Day 2 ended with a reception at the Belfast city hall with the Lord Mayor. The venue was gorgeous and there was lots of wine, but I turned in early to prepare for my presentation the next morning.


I got to the conference early on the last day to prepare for my presentation. I was presenting in the session showcasing TransAtlantic ocean education work and spoke about the successes and challenges of the Discovery Centre’s program to increase ocean literacy and ocean career literacy in Nova Scotia. The Discovery Centre is a science centre in Halifax and the Tide to Technology program provides hands-on learning to Grade 8-12 students about oceans and ocean technology careers through ROV operation, basic coding, and activities simulating concepts of marine acoustics and marine geomatics. The program is delivered for free all around Nova Scotia with sponsorship from the Ocean Technology Council of Nova Scotia.

The end of my presentation at the EMSEA Conference 2016 talking about the Discovery Centre’s hands-on ocean literacy and ocean career literacy program called Tide to Technology. Photo from Meg Marerro.


I also spoke about the momentum that is building in the province to increase ocean literacy as well. There are many organizations, in addition to the Discovery Centre working to increase ocean education such as Ocean School, the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise, and Oceans-NS to name a few. The Department of Education in Nova Scotia has also recently dedicated an entire day in November called the Ocean Education Day where over 700 students from all over the province came to participate in hands-on ocean education workshops that the Discovery Centre and the organizations mentioned above and others were involved in. I had a lot of great conversation with other educations following my presentation and I was proud to represent a small province across the pond doing amazing work in ocean literacy.

Méabh (middle) found the mini sailboat in Ireland launched by the University of Connecticut as part of Dick Baldwin’s (right) Educational Passages program. She is showing us what she found in the water-tight compartment of the boat. Pictures from Twitter @emseassociation.


The last workshop session I attended at the EMSEA conference was also the most inspiring and amazing presentation for me. Dick Baldwin is the founder of Educational Passages, an amazing educational program that uses unmanned GPS-equipped miniboats to teach students about the ocean and connects people all over the world. Many miniboats have sailed across the Atlantic using just ocean currents and winds and students can track their boats in real-time with the GPS coordinates sent by the boat. It is an amazing way to teach about the interconnectedness of the ocean, ocean currents, weather, geography, different cultures, art, boat-building and much more.


To date, Educational Passages, have helped school students launch over 70 miniboats. Currently the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and other institutions are coordinating an Atlantic Regatta of miniboats launched by 22 elementary, middle and high schools from eight different countries around the Atlantic Ocean. The Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland and students at Mobile Central High School is part of the regatta and has sent the first Canadian miniboat into the Atlantic. Their boat, Mobile Goat (after a Newfoundland folk song) was launched in November. Check out where it is here. I think this is a fantastic program and I think we should get more Canadian school participating in the next international regatta of miniboats on all our coasts.


I had a fantastic time at EMSEA this year. I’ve listened to amazing success stories, discussed challenges with fellow ocean educators and was recharged and inspired to keep doing what I am doing. It was lovely to see people I met last year and I’ve made wonderful new connections. Next year, the EMSEA conference will be held in Malta. I hope to be fortunate enough to attend again, but maybe more CaNOErs can attend and share what we are doing to advance ocean education in Canada.



SonyaLee_CaNOE Board BioSonya is a Science Educator at the Discovery Centre, a science centre in Halifax, NS. She delivers hands-on curriculum-based science workshops to students in Grades P-12 all around Nova Scotia. This is her second year on the Board of Directors of CaNOE. In 2015-2016, she co-chaired the Conference Organizing Working Group to organize the 2nd CaNOE Ocean Literacy Conference in Halifax. This year, she hopes to use her experience in hands-on education to help steer an Education Working Group for CaNOE.




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