9 Fun Ways to Teach Kids About Ocean Conservation
Marine life is critical to our planet, but it's in danger. Here are fun and educational ways to get your kids involved in ocean conservation.
Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth, but pollution, overfishing, and climate change all pose threats to the survival of these crucial ecosystems. In fact, more than a third of ocean mammals and nearly a third of corals are in danger of extinction, and more than half of all marine life may disappear by 2100.
Sobering facts indeed, the oceans are an integral part of the Earth's ecology as a whole. When significant environmental changes impair ocean health, it has a knock-on effect on other aspects of our planet. For example, a 2019 NASA study showed the link between warmer oceans and an increase in extreme weather events.
One way to take action is to show our little ones how to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems through ocean conservation. Kids are wonderfully curious and open, and they have a genuine interest in nature and animals. You can take advantage of this interest to educate and get your children involved in protecting the marine environment.
Read on for the best techniques to get kids interested in our ocean health and conservation.
Read Marine Books With Your Kids
Reading books with kids is always a good idea for their intellectual development, but it can also help them gain more empathy for marine life.
There are many books to get your little ones interested in nature. You can find books that explain pollution, water cycles, or the ocean food chain with stories and colorful illustrations that keep them engaged.
Some top picks include On the Reef, All the Water in the World, and Ocean: A Visual Encyclopedia. You may think young children won't be interested in factual books, but the story of how a goby fish and a shrimp share a hole and live and work together, for example, can prove just as entertaining as a storybook.
Watch Ocean Documentaries
Ocean conservation documentaries aren't only full of useful information, but they tend to also be beautiful to watch, for kids and adults. You can both enjoy the combination of relaxing imagery mixed with new knowledge on your favorite animals and get excited about the ocean. An excellent starting point is the BBC's Blue Planet series featuring plenty of action, such as swordfish chasing baitfish, to keep kids engaged.
Play with Animal Toys
Kids tend to form an emotional bond with their favorite plush toys, so why not use the opportunity to get them interested in the ocean? A whale, shark, or fish toy can be just what you need to spark an interest in marine life at a very young age.
Some aquariums do an important job with the conservation of endangered species. They also bring all those marine creatures from your kid's favorite books and movies to life.
Check the aquariums in your area to see if they have guided tours or organize a trip somewhere with one. You can look for AZA-accredited aquariums to make sure they follow the best practices in conservation.
Avoid any aquariums that keep large pelagic species such as orcas in small enclosures or that offer interactive experiences with animals like dolphin shows.
Dive into the Ocean
If you live near the ocean or have the chance to travel, there are few things as magical as experiencing the underwater world in person.
Kids can start learning to snorkel as soon as they know how to swim. Scuba diving in the ocean is also an exciting option. Starting at 10 years old, children can take a junior open water training course with a scuba instructor and dive no more than 40 feet.
Starting from 8 years old can also get into the water during a short "Bubblemaker Experience." During a Bubblemaker, an instructor will briefly introduce your child to some scuba diving basics and rules, such as never hold your breath, in a way they can understand. Then, with the instructor's help, your child will put on their scuba equipment (including a child-sized tank) and spend a maximum of half an hour in the water at a maximum depth of about 6 feet.
This doesn't lead to a scuba certification but it's an excellent way to show kids the magic of being underwater under the close watch of a scuba instructor for safe diving.
Adopt a Pet
Many organizations offer you the chance to support their conservation work in fun and engaging ways. How about adopting a sea turtle in your child's name to teach them about caring for an endangered species?
For a small monthly donation, you'll usually get an adoption certificate and regular updates on your adopted animal. Many times, the package also includes information you can look through with your child to teach them more about the species.
Teach Kids to Reduce Plastic
Plastic pollution contributes to the loss of sustainable living environments for many animal species. Make sure to reduce and recycle single-use plastics in your home, and always pick reusable shopping bags. Tell your kids why it's important to do this. You can also turn it into a game and give them points whenever they help you recycle.
Cook Sustainably Sourced Food
Fishing is the biggest cause of the loss of biodiversity in oceans. If you want to reduce your family's impact on the seas, make sure you buy sustainably sourced ingredients. If your family enjoys eating fish, consider limiting how much you eat and switching to a species that isn't under threat. You can find out which fish are on the "red-list" by visiting a site such as Greenpeace. Avoid buying these species, instead, switch to "green-list" fish.
Involve your children in cooking with fun, tasty, and eco-conscious recipes. Kids learn from following your example, so getting them used to environmentally friendly eating can have a big impact later on.
Get Kids Involved
You can get big kids involved in organizations that work to reduce the effects of ocean biodiversity loss and climate change. Become a member as a family, donate or volunteer, and join events organized by the organization. Conservation organizations such as Greenpeace, Oceana, and Sea Shepherd are all good options. There may also be local charities in your area if you live near the coast.
The Bottom Line
As climate change raises ocean temperatures, it will have an overall impact on marine ecosystems. There are fun and easy ways to teach your kids about ocean conservation, recycling, and a sustainable lifestyle in general, so they understand their actions impact the ecosystem. The more kids learn about their footprint in the world at a young age, the more conscious they'll be as teens and adults.
Torben Lonne is a dad, a scuba diver, and an ocean lover who is deeply concerned with how we are treating our oceans. He runs Divein.com, an online magazine about scuba diving and about how divers can make a positive difference for the environment.