On Valentine’s Day 2011, the Coastal America partnership brought 80 teens and 48 educators from across America together to kick off the 3rd National Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts. These high school students and their accompanying teachers spent four days in Washington, DC, culminating an effort that had been set in motion at least 9 months earlier. That process began in early September, 2010. Students, selected competitively by their schools, formed teams and developed action plans, then began setting those plans in motion. Twenty student delegations from 18 states—and one from Vera Cruz, Mexico—arrived in the Nation’s capital for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With all of their travel and participation expenses covered by Coastal America partners, doors were flung open to these fortunate students—and they embraced this opportunity with exuberance!
Designed to develop future ocean scientists and leaders, and to teach high school students about the interconnectedness between the ocean, coasts, Great Lakes, inland seas and climate, the theme of this Student Summit was the Third Principle of Ocean Literacy: The ocean is a major influence on climate and weather--and its inverse. It is one of seven essential principles of K-12 ocean sciences established in 2005 by the National Marine Educators Association. Back in January 2004, the Coastal America federal partnership and its network of CELCs organized the 1st National Student Summit on Ocean Issues. One highlight of the first summit was the opportunity to provide a student voice in the deliberations of the U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. The summit participants addressed such coastal issues as tidal power, habitat restoration, conservation of wildlife, and ocean literacy programs. In 2006, Coastal America celebrated its 10-year partnership with the Learning Centers by hosting the 2nd National Student Summit on Oceans and Coasts. Bringing formal and informal educators together with students, the gathering was intended to advance an ocean-literate and involved citizenship that went beyond summit participation and school curricula.
The purpose of the 3rd summit was threefold: (1) to educate, inspire and engage the next generation of leaders in marine science, resource protection and ocean governance; (2) to engage students in collaborative action to address local coastal issues; and (3) to foster stewardship by creating ocean-literate citizens. The process of educating and engaging this next generation of potential leaders was set in motion when they embarked on their projects at the individual Learning Centers. They developed together as teams, and they improved their ocean literacy—and all before they had gotten in a car or stepped on a plane to attend the Summit.
The Summits build upon the success of a number of Regional Student Ocean Conferences that have been occurring around the country at the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers.