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Vol. 2, No. 2

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Oceans 11 lets NS students plunge into marine science

Image: Eleventh-grade students in teacher Kevin Veinot's class at Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge Station Nova Scotia learn to test water quality as part of the Oceans 11 unit on aquaculture.Halifax, Nova Scotia "Why do I have to know this?" is a question high school students ponder with some regularity, even if they don't always ask it aloud. Oceans 11, a new curriculum that will be available in Nova Scotia this fall, will help make science meaningful to eleventh graders, say developers of the project.

The idea for Oceans 11 emerged from a workshop that included teachers and staff from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The project has since drawn in numerous other partners, including universities, museums, private industry, and provincial and federal government departments, according to Tim Hall of DFO's Oceans Act Coordination Office.

Oceans 11 will replace eleventh-grade oceanography as an elective science class in Nova Scotia schools choosing to offer it. The curriculum combines two compulsory elements or modules physical oceanography and marine biology with a choice of five elective elements developed by teachers: aquaculture, coastal zone management, fisheries resources, ocean industries, and coastal navigation. Teachers can choose the elective element most relevant to their class.

Hall said the program emphasizes an "ecosystem approach," and looks to explain, rather than settle issues. Regarding use of fishing gear, for example, he said "there are so many different perspectives on it we didn't want to go in and say this is the right answer.'"

Kevin Veinot, a science teacher at Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge Station, wrote the aquaculture module of the curriculum, and taught it last school year as part of a pilot program. "We're actually applying science to something that is very common to the students," and that gets their attention, he said, adding, "We've designed it so that there's a lot of hands on activities."

Oceans 11 "enables schools and teachers to meet the diverse needs and interests of a broad range of students," according to Brian Cochrane, a science consultant at Nova Scotia's Department of Education and Culture. "When Digby students examine issues of resource management they may do so in the context of the scallop fishery. Other areas of the province will want to adapt the context to the local community and resources, such as clam harvesting in the Bay of Fundy," he said.