Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Dana Zeidler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elaine Howes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pamela Hallock-Muller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steve Lang, Ph.D.


Environmental education, Ocean sciences education, Socioscientific, Stewardship


Ocean issues with conceptual ties to science and a global society have captured the attention, imagination, and concern of an international audience. Climate change, over fishing, marine pollution, freshwater shortages and alternative energy sources are a few ocean issues highlighted in our media and casual conversations. From the life-giving rain that nourishes crops and our bodies, to life-saving medicines; from the fish that come from the ocean, to the goods that are transported on the sea's surface-the ocean plays a role in our life in some way every day (NOAA, 1998). However, a disconnect exists between what scientists know and the public understands about the ocean. Although standards for science teaching and literacy are established, the fundamental role of the ocean is not emphasized.

This was an exploratory study of 30 females, 13-14 years old, during an extended ocean learning experience, the Oceanography Camp for Girls, which included direct experiences in natural environments. Teens were engaged in a series of ocean learning and stewardship activities. A mixed-methods approach was used to develop three quantitative instruments: the Survey of Ocean Literacy and Engagement (SOLE), Survey of Ocean Stewardship (SOS) and Scenarios of Ocean Environmental Morality (SOEM). Three ocean socioscientific issues (OSSI) case studies were analyzed qualitatively. Participants reasoned and expressed positions in writing and verbally following OSSI embedded activities.

Research questions examined what understanding teen girls currently hold about the ocean (content), how they feel (environmental attitudes and morality) toward the ocean environment, and how these feelings and understanding are organized when reasoning about ocean issues. Results from SOLE and SOS revealed that content knowledge and environmental attitudes significantly contribute to ocean literacy. Analysis of SOEM demonstrated that biocentric environmental reasoning was most important to teens in solving specific ocean dilemmas. Analysis of OSSI from interview responses revealed three patterns of informal reasoning (rationalistic, emotive and intuitive).

Findings support the critical need to globally advance ocean literacy, especially amongst youth and adults. An overarching outcome was that the Oceanography Camp for Girls program is multimodal and goes beyond cognitive understanding to include social and emotive aspects of learning.