Introduction to Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP)

Representative Image
Image caption

Fig. 1. Wave produced by the wake of a ferry, Fanø, Denmark.

Image copyright and source

Image adpated from Wikipedia, courtesy of Malene Thyssen

The ocean regulates our weather and climate.

It supplies food, medicine, minerals, and energy resources.

Our environment, economy, and society all depend on the processes of the ocean.

Understanding the ocean is therefore essential to comprehending and protecting the planet on which we live.


Ocean Literacy Principles

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. An ocean literate person understands of the ocean’s influence on them—and their influence on the ocean. The seven Ocean Literacy Principles describe what we should all know and understand about the ocean and aquatic environments (Table 1).

  1. Earth has one big ocean with many features.
  2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of the 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.


Teaching Ocean Literacy

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. The Sea-Earth-Atmosphere Grade 3–5 curriculum is guided by the Ocean Literacy Principles, associated fundamental concepts, and scope and sequence.


An ocean literate person:

  • understands the oceant literacy principles,
  • can communicate about the ocean in a meaningful way, and
  • is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources.


Related Conversations

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