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Welcome aboard the Volvo Ocean Yacht Race education programme

Updated: Jul 28, 2018

Last year our WP2 Lead Lucy Hunt designed a global education programme for the Volvo Ocean Yacht Race focused on taking action to ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ - the United Nations Clean Seas campaign launched a year ago to address the critical problem of plastic pollution in the ocean.

This ties in directly with the UN's SDG 14 (Life Below Water), one of the four goals CoDesRes is working with. Lucy will be adapting aspects of her work with the Volvo education programme through working with the CoDesRes team to develop curriculum - SDG 4 (Quality Education) and teaching resources.

The aim of WP2 - Youth Transition for students aged 15 - 16 years is to develop an awareness of the ocean and the importance of a healthy ocean for the planet. CoDesRes hopes this will encourage youth leadership and empowerment while engaging with SDG 14 targets to creating youth ocean ambassadors, confident in themselves and what they can do for the planet.

Lucy is passionate about marine education and the ocean and we wanted to share more about Lucy's experience.

CoDesRes: Tell us about the first time you really connected with the marine environment

LH: When I was a kid it was my backyard, so I would head down to the beach and to the rock pools. I even used to take my pet cat to the beach and we would paddle in the rock pools together! Also, my Dad would always take us to the beach or out on our small boat fishing anytime he could get away from work. I always remember my Dad lifting me up into the air so I could have a big splash in the sea! Those years from about 6-12 shaped my love for and connection with the sea! When I was 12 years old, I learnt to scuba dive in Derrynane Harbour and out at Deenish and Scarriff Island – amazing!

CoDesRes: Why is Marine Education important (I’m thinking about stating the importance of the ocean for the planet / the ecosystem e.g. benefits for all of a healthy marine ecology.

LH: The ocean is the blue heart of planet Earth. Without a healthy ocean, we cannot have healthy humans and indeed we cannot survive on planet Earth! Tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton give us over ½ of the fresh air we breathe; the ocean is a carbon sink, it regulates climate and offers food, medicine, jobs and transport as well as water! The ocean is our lifeline; if we don’t know this, then we do not know the need to protect it. This is why marine education is important. I always remember teaching in a 6th class about the importance of the ocean and this one girl of 12 years old was in disbelief and quite upset and also angry that she had never learnt that before, that she was only learning it at 12. Many people older than her do not know about the oceans' importance and as we go towards a culture of convenience, we are losing connection with our natural world. We need to know how valuable the environment is so that we can fall in love with it and want to protect it and be stewards of nature and the ocean!

CoDesRes: Lucy you are the founder and director of Sea Synergy – can you tell us what is Sea Synergy?

LH: Sea Synergy is a marine awareness & activity centre, a social and environmental enterprise set up to connect people with the ocean for an overall better well being of people and planet. Our overall objective is to help people fall in love with the ocean and nature so they then want to protect it. We do this through many different ways, from talks and walks to activities like snorkelling, seashore safaris or stand up paddle boarding.

CoDesRes: How long has SeaSynergy been around and where is it?

LH: I have been working in marine education for over 12 years and opened Sea Synergy Marine Awareness Centre in 2014 as I saw an opportunity where further awareness was needed for Ireland's sea life and ocean and so Sea Synergy was born; a space to share my ocean adventures with others. It also allows students to come and work and gain experience in education and research and awareness in beautiful SW Kerry!

CoDesRes: What are its aims and goals?

LH: The main aim of Sea Synergy is to help people understand the importance of the ocean in a fun way so that they fall in love with it and want to protect it! We do this by showcasing local marine flora and fauna and having fun activities to take part in to get to know more about the ocean and the environment.

CoDesRes: This year you had the opportunity to develop the curriculum for the Volvo Ocean Yacht Race. What did this entail and can you tell us about the curriculum?

LH: The curriculum is multi-disciplinary, active learning with inquiry-based learning elements to drive positive action for the ocean. I wrote four booklets on different topics targeted at age groups 6-12 years.

The topics included

  1. What is the Volvo Ocean Race?

  2. What is our Ocean Connection? & What is Ocean Plastic?

  3. How to Reduce Ocean Plastic

  4. My Positive Plastic Footprint

We also created fun worksheets, presentations and teacher activity guides, all available in 7 languages; English, Dutch, Swedish, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The materials are developed with head and heart in mind to positively activate the kids to engage their families and communities in the task to turn the tide on plastic and be Champions for the Sea!

We also ran empowering workshops for the 11 host cities we stopped off at, which were great fun and hands on for the kids and got them really thinking about what is happening in the ocean but how they can all help to make a difference too!

CoDesRes: What did you hope the curriculum would achieve?

LH: We hoped to achieve a well-planned and rounded education programme that would activate children to help stop ocean plastic pollution. We hoped to reach 25000 children with our education programme. Now we have reached over 100,000 children with our race village workshops and our online education programme that is available on

We have had lots of positive feedback from teachers and students and some real life stories of real positive change happening in schools and communities, such as Sneem and Tahilla National School taking on a Turn the Tide on Plastic St Patricks Day Parade and having ambassadors working the crowd telling them about the importance of the ocean and how we can protect it! We have also had school girls contact politicians to ask them to stop single use plastic and we have seen commitments for teachers to ban single use plastic in their school canteens!

CoDesRes: What have you learnt from the education programme?

LH: We all can make a difference. I’m just one person, but have managed to reach over 100,000 kids around the world with my team, raising awareness of the importance of the ocean and how we can protect it.

We need a multi-disciplinary team to make operations run smoothly. I also noticed different nationalities, display different levels of confidence when answering questions and feeling like they can make a difference.

CoDesRes: How do you plan to develop it?

LH: The plan is to create more modules for the same age group 6-12 years; like a science module based on our exciting science programme in the race and to also co-create a module for secondary level students within the CoDesRes project.

CoDesRes: What surprised you , both good and bad, about your experience with Volvo?

LH: The race is an amazing experience, it’s intense and it’s special to travel the world and speak with so many young people about a problem we see all over the world. It was surprising to see the amount of ocean plastic pollution everywhere we went around the globe, but it was encouraging to see how many people wanted to see a sea change and be part of it.

CoDesRes: What is your most optimistic thought post race-experience?

LH: We can make a difference, I have made a difference and there are 1000’s of kids being Champions for the Sea now making a difference for a cleaner planet!

CoDesRes: This year as part of CoDesRes you will be expanding this curriculum for Transition Year and developing teaching resources; can you tell us what you are thinking about?

LH: Yes, this is super exciting part of the project for me as we have a foundation to work from with the education programme I have already created and it will be wonderful to expand it for a wider audience. I really want to bring the science element of the race into a module so I think highlighting the technology used in the race to measure environmental parameters and also micro-plastics will be important. I think using the race as a platform to learn about science and technology will be cool for the students and will allow us to make further connections on how the ocean affects us all. We can use NOAA near real-time data from the data buoys deployed by the Volvo Ocean Race sailors, it will enable us to explore weather patterns and understand how something so ‘far away’ actually impacts us in every way.

It will be a great opportunity to also use STEAM in the TY curriculum. It would be great to achieve a better understanding of our connection with the ocean by learning about technology that can help us know about the ocean, weather and pollution systems that influence our lives.

You can also watch Lucy's SDG voxpop here

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