Wave of the Future

July 21, 2020

By Dr. Sherry Scully, Executive Director, COVE Workforce Initiative –

It was the first week of quarantine, and my family was settling into new routines for what we thought would be a two-week experiment in social isolation. Working from my new office – aka the kitchen table – with a mini-aquaponics tank full of snails by my side, my mind drifted from the possibility of eventually needing to eat said snails should the quarantine be extended, to how I would continue to have impact with my projects should the two weeks stretch into months. A key part of the COVE Workforce Initiative is engaging youth in ocean STEM and ocean careers – a difficult challenge when interactions with youth, industry and the ocean have all been arrested by the grip of a global pandemic.

Early in my research at COVE, the absence of good ocean STEM resources had become evident, and while we addressed that with much of our annual programming, with Ocean Toolkits and ocean institutes and workshops for teachers and youth, the need for a virtual option had arisen.  As I watched a snail chew a trail of algae from the tank, I realized there was an opportunity to develop a resource for families to use at home while isolating, and for teachers to use to anchor their virtual classrooms. 

The Wave of the Future is the first resource of its kind in Canada, teaching youth about the Sustainable Blue Economy. The book is a visual and interactive resource that introduces young people to the Blue Economy, highlighting how industry plays a powerful role in its establishment and sustainability. The book raises awareness about the range of industries involved in the Blue Economy, including ocean technology, advanced manufacturing like shipbuilding, traditional crafts like boat building, renewable marine energy like offshore wind and tidal energy, aquaculture and nutraceuticals, research, defense, and conservation. The book also profiles several key ocean careers, and highlights key ocean STEM concepts, demonstrating how industry is using science and technology to support a sustainable future.

Available in both interactive (online) and print versions, the book targets ages 10-12, but the content and activities can easily be adapted to older and younger kids and their families.  My own kids, ages 8 and 15, have gone through the chapters and participated in several of the design thinking challenges, individually and together. 

I wrote this book with a few objectives in mind. Certainly, the most obvious objective was to provide good content and engaging activities. I also wanted to present relatable role models with a range of ocean experiences and perspectives that youth could relate to. Additionally, I wanted to connect youth with the spirit of optimism that seems to be missing from the present narrative about our earth’s resources. Often the dialogue about the Blue Economy polarizes economy and ecology, and so I wanted to encourage a dialogue and reveal the multiple and sometimes antagonistic perspectives on many issues, but do so in a way that informs and that invites youth to be involved in the problem solving. I also wanted to highlight some of the great and well-intentioned work of many industry folks who are as committed to and invested in sustainability as anyone.  I wanted to demonstrate how using good science and technology can help to advance solutions rather than creating new problems. 

In an early study we conducted, we were shocked and disappointed to discover that nearly 30% of the participants reported having no interest in the ocean! This – from a population of youth who are quite literally surrounded by the ocean in Nova Scotia! And so, perhaps the most ambitious goal of this work was to demonstrate the wonder and mystery of the ocean, and the powerful connections people have with the blue planet. I wanted to provoke curiosity and imagination and the sense of adventure that the ocean should inspire. I wanted to show how its depths and power and fecundity reflect hope and endurance and the prospect of a better future. The global blight of COVID19 has united us in a collective experience of vulnerability and resilience and humanity. Similarly, the one great ocean touches all coasts, and unites us in our simultaneous reliance on her resources and our responsibility to protect the global sea.

About COVE:

COVE is a world-class facility for applied innovation in the ocean sector and the only such hub of its kind in the world where start-up companies, small and medium sized enterprises, large firms and post-secondary expertise are housed together developing ocean technology. COVE Workforce Initiative focuses on workforce development and engagement in Ocean Industries where youth and teacher engagement is a primary focus. COVE brings together people, ideas, industry and research to help our community and members work in new ways. Together, we are a catalyst in creating the world’s next practical, commercial and revolutionary ocean tech advances. Irving Shipbuilding, as part of its Value Proposition commitments under the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), has invested over $6 million in COVE to support development of the programs and operations. Learn more about COVE, our projects and our members at coveocean.com

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