By Karen Anspacher-Meyer, Sarah Lockman & Jennifer Buffett


If you are an educator who also loves marine life and the ocean – and sharing that love and passion with students and others – then British Columbia is a pretty neat place to explore. From estuaries and rivers, to fjords and tidal flats, to a vast array of species and the people who call coastal communities home – there is so much to learn about using this ‘living case-study’ in your teaching practice and engaging students in marine and ocean literacy.


The Great Bear region of British Columbia’s North Pacific Coast is one of Canada’s unique ecological treasures. It is home to islands, wild rivers, cold-water seas, and one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests. This region of British Columbia’s coast is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, has enormous cultural significance to the people who live here, and contains important resources for BC’s economy. The Great Bear Sea – a new name used to describe this marine area – encompasses the waters that surround the Great Bear Rainforest and extends from Campbell River on Vancouver Island to the border of BC and Alaska. It covers a large area – 103,000 square kilometers in total – and extends from the high tide line to the edge of the continental shelf.


Credit: Prince Rupert Adventure Tours

The film the Great Bear Sea: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future, by Green Fire Productions, is a journey through the Great Bear Sea region, home to First Nations for thousands of years. The film explores this unique area – an expanse of ocean where whales, wolves, bears, fish, seabirds, other marine life and humans thrive in rich coastal ecosystems. The Great Bear Sea is also a place where worlds collide – a place full of historic conflicts and looming battles over ocean resources. Now 18 First Nations and the Province of British Columbia, through a government-to-government process, have created marine plans for the Great Bear Sea to both protect their home and to build sustainable coastal economies through the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP). Through the film, we meet people and communities along the coast of BC who are working to implement BC’s marine plans, particularly in the four sub-regions outlined in the MaPP: Central Coast, Haida Gwaii, North Coast and North Vancouver Island.


Credit: Vernon Brown & Phillip Charles

These ideas and perspectives provide a great opportunity for inquiry and place-based learning in schools and other settings, and thus the Exploring the Great Bear Sea Curriculum was born! The Exploring the Great Bear Sea Curriculum currently consists of an elementary cross-curricular unit for Grades 4-7 and secondary units for Social Studies Grades 11-12 and Environmental Science Grades 11-12. Using film segments, research data, local knowledge and place-based stories, the curriculum explores themes such as collaborative science, marine planning, Indigenous Knowledge, biodiversity, sustainable resource management and marine stewardship. All resources are connected to the revised BC curriculum and include full lesson plans and supplementary resources, as well as film clips to support classroom learning. Although linked to the BC curriculum, these resources are applicable to any educator looking to explore these themes in their classroom or in other learning contexts.


For instance, the film clip below allows students to experience the bounty & other-worldly beauty of the intertidal zone with Trevor Russ, Vice President, Council of the Haida Nation, as he harvests traditional foods in Haida Gwaii and talks about the role of Traditional Knowledge as the foundation for the Haida Gwaii marine plan. This clip is then tied to lessons that look more specifically at traditional knowledge through seasonal rounds or seasonal use cycles, which map the traditional knowledge of an area, displaying the when and what of harvesting around the seasons for a specific place.

All curriculum resources are available free of charge and include printable resources, links to film segments, and supplementary materials. These can be accessed and downloaded from


In the coming months, we will also be launching a resource for the post-secondary setting. This resource will fit a variety of teaching contexts, including marine biology, environmental studies, resource management, Indigenous studies, etc., and will provide film clips, supplementary materials and pedagogical resources.


Curious to learn more about this area and see more of the film? You can watch the Great Bear Sea: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future trailer, or view the full length (75 minute) film to learn more about the region and the Marine Planning Partnership.

To join the mailing list to be notified of new resources, or if you are interested in arranging a workshop for teachers at your school to explore how to use these resources in practice, please visit the website: or contact us at


Credit: Rowan Trebilco 


Green Fire Productions, a non-governmental organization, specializes in producing documentaries on sustainability and conservation of natural resources. The Great Bear Sea is part of the Ocean Frontiers film series on ocean stewardship in North America. Founded in 1989 by Karen Anspacher-Meyer and Ralf Meyer, Green Fire films are used in classrooms worldwide and screened in community events, for decision-makers and on public television.

Sarah Lockman and Jennifer Buffett have worked in formal and informal educational settings, including elementary, secondary and post-secondary classrooms, non-profit organizations, municipal and provincial educational organizations in BC and Ontario. Together, they have over 30 years of curriculum development, teaching and educational leadership experience, with specialization in innovative approaches to hands-on, inquiry and place-based learning. (They also love the ocean!) Contact them at:


Credit: Florian Graner

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