Ocean Education: Developing knowledge, caring, and taking action

Sharing stories of Resilience and Inspiration in this time of climate and nature emergency

Ocean education


Connecting with our oceans is more crucial today than at any time in our history. Renowned marine scientist Sylvia Earle describes the Ocean as the Blue Heart of the planet. Today, due to environmental devaluing and destruction resulting in climate crisis, the world’s oceans are experiencing ecosystem collapse, biodiversity loss, and mass extinctions. Following the lead of environmental heroes such as Greta Thunberg and Autumn Pelletier, students are calling for action. As botanist and Indigenous scholar Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, “To love a place is not enough. We must find ways to heal it”. One way to begin the process of healing is through an education which shares stories of both the human and non-human world’s lived experience with the Ocean.

As educators living and working in a coastal community, we must play a key role in building ocean literacy with our students, whether they are younger learners or adults. To that end, this speaker series and accompanying open educational resources are centered on the Salish Sea and will help participants learn about and consider relevant interdisciplinary research and how it is impacting, or might impact, our practice.


Each hybrid seminar began with a keynote speaker followed by reflections from a panel of educators (formal and informal) with opportunity for Q&A and discussion with panelists and among participants. The seminars were held in Spring 2023 in person, on campus at UBC and also live streamed. Recordings of the webinars are available via links below.

Select the session below to view details and recordings.

The Rights of Humans, Whales and Oceans: Accelerating Action on the Sustainable Development Goals

In recent centuries, rights have been a catalyst for the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, the end of apartheid, and the resurgence of Indigenous cultures. In the face of a planetary environmental crisis, can rights-based approaches spark the systemic changes needed to achieve a just and sustainable future?

We also welcome Laura McKillop, grade 2 teacher from White Rock Elementary who will share about how she and her students engage with the UN Sustainability goals in the context of the "Year of the Oceans" and beyond.

About the Presenters

Dr. David R. Boyd is the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (2018-2024) and a professor of law, policy, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Boyd is also the author of ten books and over 150 reports and articles on environmental law and policy, human rights, and constitutional law. His books include The Rights of Nature, The Optimistic EnvironmentalistThe Right to a Healthy Environment and The Environmental Rights Revolution. He lives on Pender Island on the west coast of Canada with his partner and their daughter, and loves to run, hike, kayak and cycle!





Laura McKillop is a teacher with Surrey School District. Laura currently teaches Grade 2 in the Fine Arts Intensive Program at White Rock Elementary. As the caretaker of a saltwater aquarium at her school, Laura delights in learning from (and co-teaching with) a peculiar group of marine invertebrates native to the coast of British Columbia. Laura is passionate about ocean education because it nurtures wonder, empathy, and ecological awareness in learners. Laura completed a BFA and BEd at Simon Fraser University. When she’s not in the classroom, Laura can be found exploring the beaches, mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes of coastal British Columbia with her best friend (and dog) Chuka.





Place as Lived in the Salish Sea - The Storied Lives of the Southern Resident Killer Whales (Webinar)

Through story as pedagogical witnessing, I will introduce place as bioregional, lived through experiences within our own backyards. I will share the stories of the Southern Resident Killer Whales to emphasize the importance of nurturing relationships with the more than human world. The purpose of this story-telling experience is to empower us to develop an in-depth understanding of a unique, precious, and critically endangered community with whom we share a home. My hope is for educators to embrace story in their own practice to introduce, discuss, reflect, and act upon issues of shared place and community. Themes will include place as eco-pedagogy, ecojustice, ethics, empathy, and endangered species with special attention to ways of knowing, being, and healing.

About the Presenter

Dr. Sandra Scott

Dr. Sandra Scott, Professor of Teaching, Science & Environmental Education, Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, UBC Sustainability Fellow.

My work is guided by Wonder as the Heart of Inquiry and Eco Pedagogy, which I view as learning in and from nature with Nature as Master Teacher, Mentor, and Guide. Science education is my home, and my experiences developing relationships, teaching, and learning provide the foundation for all my pedagogical pursuits. I welcome and guide students on a journey to wonder, whether it be through courses in Inquiry, Science Methods, Environmental Education, Research Methods, and beyond UBC in community. My teaching centres joy, hope, and optimism and follows a constructivist approach guided by collective noticings and wonderings.

This session will be offered fully online as a webinar.

Ecological responses to climate change in the Salish Sea - lessons from low tide

About the Presenter

Chris Harley has been studying coastal marine ecosystems along the west coast and around the world for over 25 years. He joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia in 2005, and he is currently a professor in the Department of Zoology and the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries. He and his students are interested in how marine ecosystems are changing and why, with emphases on climate change, species interactions, and biodiversity. While ecological change is at times alarming, Chris draws hope from the resilience of ecosystems and from the passion that people have for nature.

Thursday, May 11th, 4:30 - 6pm (Neville Scarfe Building, UBC & Zoom)
Interactive hybrid Seminar with Q&A showcasing the work of Dr. Christopher Harley including how educators might engage their students in learning about our local marine environments while incorporating current research and scientific understandings.

Friday, May 12th, 6pm - 7:30pm (Stanley Park)
Join us for a guided intertidal exploration with Chris Harley in Stanley Park at low tide! Learn about species interaction, climate impacts and biodiversity as you explore the high, mid and low tide zones.

Ocean Optimism: science-based stories of hope

About the Presenter

Elin Kelsey, PhD is an influential thought-leader for the evidence-based hope and climate solutions movement. She is the author of Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis (Greystone Books, 2020), Her influence can be seen in the hopeful, solutions-focus of her clients, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and other powerful institutions where she has served as a visiting fellow including the Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society, the Rockefeller Foundation, The Kone Foundation, the Salish Sea Foundation and Stanford University in the Graduate School of Education. She co-created #OceanOptimism, a twitter campaign to crowd-source marine conservation solutions which has reached more than 100 million shares since it launched in 2014. She is currently leading a Suzuki Institute funded collaboration between The Solutions Journalism Network, Queer Brown Vegan and other social influencers to make evidence-based hope more shareable online. Recognizing the crucial role of climate emotions to climate engagement, she works on a range of collaborative projects with researchers, artists, journalists, educators and youth.

Passionate about bringing science-based stories of hope and multi-species resilience to the public, Kelsey is a popular keynote speaker and media commentator. In 2023 she will be serving as an author/artist in residence, leading hopeful environmental workshops with students in Oman, Norway, the USA and Canada. As an Adjunct Faculty member of the University of Victoria School of Environmental Studies, and, Western Washington University’s partnership in the Redfish School of Change, she is helping to forward a solutions-oriented paradigm for educating environmental scientists and social scientists. She is a feature writer and podcast host for Hakai Magazine and a best-selling children's book author. Her first film, Breathe, was distributed globally by Amnesty International in 2022. Please visit https://www.elinkelsey.org/

Brought to you by:
Dr. Sandra Scott, Professor of Teaching; UBC Faculty of Education (EDCP) & Fellow at UBC Sustainability
Dr. Lindsay Rogers. Assistant Professor of Teaching; Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology & Fellow at UBC Sustainability
Yvonne Dawydiak, Learning Design Manager, UBC Faculty of Education (Teacher Education)

This project is funded by an Edith Lando VLC Digital Pedagogy Lab Grant.