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Oceans Pathway

Whether we live near the coast or hundreds of miles away, our world’s oceans provide goods and services we all rely on. Beyond the goods and services they provide, our oceans are also home to well over a million species. These aquatic habitats are as diverse as those found on land, from coastal tide pools to coral reefs and kelp forests to deep ocean trenches. There are over 100 marine species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, each playing a critical role in their niche and the larger food web.

Our oceans are now facing several challenges, including overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, acidification, and warming. What can schools do? Education is key to understanding the science, economics, and cultural connections related to these issues. Through education, awareness, and experience, students can be empowered and moved to action that will have lasting positive outcomes.

students examining water samples

Oceans Fast Facts

Following the Framework

Utilize the Seven Step Framework to complete your pathway.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

K-2 Conducting an Oceans Audit | K-2 Baseline Audit | K-2 Post-Action Audit

3-5 Conducting an Oceans Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit | 3-5 Post-Action Audit

6-8 Conducting an Oceans Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting an Oceans Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit


Additional Audit Resources

Species-Specific Migratory Bird Observations

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Oceans pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

K-2 Conducting an Oceans Audit | K-2 Baseline Audit | K-2 Post-Action Audit

3-5 Conducting an Oceans Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit | 3-5 Post-Action Audit

6-8 Conducting an Oceans Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting an Oceans Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit


Additional Audit Resources

Species-Specific Migratory Bird Observations

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Oceans pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Top 10 Tips

  • Identify the role humans are playing, both positive and negative.

  • Litter endangers freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats and wildlife. Changing consumption habits should come before reducing, reusing, and recycling.

  • Create an awareness campaign to display in the school cafeteria encouraging students and staff to say no to single use plastics.

  • Look into the regulatory body, community groups, and non-profit organizations.