The Blue Planet Odyssey is more than a collection of boats sailing around the world. As the web site (www.blueplanetodyssey.com) states, it also aims to raise awareness of the global effects of climate change and the most urgent issues facing our ocean. There is an educational component, and participants are encouraged to reach out to local schools and connect with students and teachers.
When the BPO suggested going to local schools, I dreaded the idea. What do I know about the health of our oceans, and passing this along to others!? With schools having rigid curricula and schedules, why would they take time for me? And what could I say to students that would make any difference?
It helped that my cousin is the superintendent of the nearby Lewiston Public Schools. I could at least talk with him about it. He connected me via email to Mrs. Weber in the middle school, and she and I arranged a face-to-face meeting. My first question: “Is this something you actually are interested in pursuing, or were you ordered to meet with me!?” She and her team were interested. I came away thinking, “OMG, what have I gotten myself into?” They planned to work my voyage into their curriculum; I would provide updates along the way; students could post questions on the blog or via email, and I would respond; we might try connecting via Skype from some far-away place; through the BPO we might connect the Lewiston students with other students around the world. And we scheduled a date for me to come introduce myself and tell the 100+ seventh-graders about the trip.
Despite my initial reservations, it was a blast! I don’t need to be an expert on climate change to share stories about the impact of sea level rise on small islands, and island cultures. And I don’t need to be an expert on education to get kids interested in a voyage around the world! The students were engaged and asked a wide range of questions.
Is there such a thing as a two-headed shark? Are sharks scary? Have you ever seen a great white?
Will you have a translator aboard?
Do you carry bottled water?
How do you take a shower?
How does the bathroom thing work?
What if you fall overboard?
Do you need a license to sail the boat?
Will you see a Galapagos Tortoise?
Are you concerned about the Ebola virus?
Why is the climate change stuff happening?
You’re going to be sailing for HOW LONG!?!?
I think our connection worked, on two fronts. I got their interest in the upcoming voyage. And I think they understood my fundamental message: the oceans are all interconnected, and they have a profound impact on our little planet. One ocean…one planet…one future.