August 23rd, 2021: Throughout my time working as an intern for North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), I learned quite a bit about what it means to be a part of educational, maritime-focused outreach. Education outreach was one of many things on my task list, but it was the experience I benefitted from the most. While teaching students of all ages, having the opportunity to learn from them while educating was a treat – and it taught me a lot about why this is important, and how it can be successful.
Global shipping has become a necessity for the way we live and the goods we require, and it’s been taken for granted. Not many young students get the opportunity to learn about the maritime industry or the marine environment, yet their livelihoods rely on both to lead a healthy lifestyle. Promoting the maritime industry, strengthening it, and sustaining its longevity all start with education as well as community outreach.
Education and community outreach are beneficial to all parties and are a great opportunity to spread awareness of shipping’s importance. Being on the job of these sites demonstrated the current state of this awareness, and also how to effectively communicate a message to students through corresponding games and presentations.
Much of what I personally find interesting about environmentalism and shipping isn’t the same as what younger students would find interesting. In order to get past this barrier, it’s important to slowly teach them through things they understand. A couple of examples of this would be things like playing games that they understand such as Jenga, and just add a lesson to it – or teaching types of ships to kids by color coordinating them and adding a story to it. Methods like these make topics usually avoided by young students much mortar interesting. Rather than avoiding large topics until later in their education, outreach like NAMEPA’s provides a framework for students which they wouldn’t have otherwise.
This summer I went to outreach in multiple towns and multiple classrooms. In each one, there were always a handful of students that stood out. They had a passion for the topic itself. Whether it be asking questions about the ships that we see on a beach cleanup or examining the horseshoe crab shells, witnessing a passion develop within a few kids was consistently a special moment. If NAMEPA was not able to visit this classroom, students may have never discovered the interest they had in shipping or in the marine environment. The opportunity presented by these visits can make a difference in their future options. For myself, these topics didn’t reach me until later in life. If I had discovered my interest in it earlier, I could have been more prepared for a certain future.
Even for the kids who won’t be planning on going into a maritime career, the educational outreach still makes a drastic impact on the future public’s perception of both the environment and shipping, as well as the relationship between the two. As I’ve discussed, these are topics that most people don’t hear about until much later in their life, and possibly ever. Simply being able to plant a foundation for future experiences pertaining to the topics that NAMEPA discusses is an advantage for both parties. One of the greatest disadvantages many students face is a lack of exposure to a variety of topics. Providing the opportunity for a student to dip their toes into the world of the maritime industry or environmental science, two essential topics in today’s world opens up their future.
The importance of education was also an important realization for my own career path. The best way to expand the knowledge of a topic is to get it within the world of education. This means collaborating with as many Boys & Girls Clubs or YMCAs as possible, reaching as many districts as we can, and finding organizations all across the country to help us expand that reach. Being able to be a part of NAMEPA’s outreach team this summer enlightened me on the gears of education, what it means to be a teacher on a topic seldom discussed, and why it’s necessary.
By Ryan Salese