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Introduction to Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP)


Ocean Literacy


Fig. 1.1. Wave produced by the wake of a ferry, Fanø, Denmark.

Image adpated from Wikipedia, courtesy of Malene Thyssen

The wide range of scientific endeavors and concepts related to coastal and ocean science fits well into general science courses across scientific disciplines and grade levels. Hundreds of ocean scientists, science educators (K–12 and informal) and learning researchers have developed a set of over-arching concepts that guide the K–12 teaching and learning of ocean sciences. These seven Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP) constitute the knowledge needed by someone considered to be “ocean literate.”


Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you—and your influence on the ocean. An ocean literate person

  • understands the Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts about the ocean,
  • can communicate about the ocean in a meaningful way, and
  • is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources.


Ocean Literacy Principles

According to the OLP, every ocean literate person should understand the following principles:

  1. Earth has one big ocean with many features.
  2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.
  3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.
  4. The ocean makes Earth habitable.
  5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
  6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.
  7. The ocean is largely unexplored.


The Ocean Literacy Principles are guided by the idea that understanding the ocean is essential to comprehending and protecting the planet on which we live.


The Exploring our Fluid Earth curriculum is guided by the OLP and associated fundamental concepts and scope and sequence.


Representative Image
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.