“Ocean Aware” Challenge event at Sidney’s Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre

– by Monika Pelz, Education & Engagement Coordinator, Ocean Networks Canada –

What better location to launch an Ocean Aware Challenge for the Girl Guides of BC than the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC?

Inspiring the next generation of young women is one of the privileges of being a Girl Guide leader. As the Education and Engagement Coordinator at Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) at the University of Victoria, I recently had the opportunity to share my love of the ocean and my love of teaching marine science with a group of eager, young Girl Guides who were working towards earning the newly created Ocean Aware Crest.

In early November 2014, over 100 Girl Guides of all ages from the local Sidney units came to celebrate the new Ocean Aware Challenge, which was specifically designed for the Girl Guides of BC in partnership with ONC. The Ocean Aware Challenge introduced these bright young minds to marine science, and its objective was to inspire an on-going awareness and appreciation of the ocean in girls and guiders everywhere.

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre’s vision statement is to “be a champion for the Salish Sea and inspire all generations to explore, respect, and take action on behalf of the Ocean.” Their diverse collection of Salish Sea species showcases marine science and conservation in an approachable, accessible way that delighted our participants. Further, this was the perfect back drop to inspire a love of the ocean and experience this new challenge.

Girl Guides of BC has never had an ocean based challenge before. The main goal of the challenge is to make it possible for girls and guiders to experience and explore the ocean, even without direct access to the seashore. But any challenge worth doing must also be fun, and that’s why it includes games, crafts and experiments. Girls had the Centre strewn with long lengths of toilet paper to illustrate the depth of the ocean; they played “erosion bowling”, made an ocean current in a bag, (wo)manned a submarine, listened to ONC hydrophone clips, and much more. Although it looked like chaos at times, most importantly the girls expanded their knowledge of marine science in fun and exciting ways. Shaw Discovery Ocean Centre’s Executive Director, Alison Barrett, and Ocean Networks Canada’s Maia Hoeberechts also delivered inspiring speeches that left the girls with no doubt that science is for everyone.

This being Baden Powell Month, it is fitting that the founding father of the Scouting and Guiding movement famously said “Leave the world a little better than you found it”. As I’ve learned at ONC, the ocean is one of the planet’s greatest and most valued resources. It, too, needs to be left better than it is now. Hopefully, the Ocean Aware Challenge will inspire a few more girls to become ocean scientists – or at least ocean advocates – regardless of where they live.

To learn more about guiding, the Ocean Aware Challenge or Ocean Networks Canada, contact pelzms@uvic.ca.

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