Ocean Literacy Framework

ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve. Shrimpers grace a St. Helena Sound sunset.

Photo ©NOAA photo library

What is Ocean Literacy?

Ocean literacy is defined as an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean. An ocean-literate person understands:

  • the essential principles and fundamental concepts;
  • can communicate about the ocean in a meaningful way; and
  • is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources.

What is the Ocean Literacy Framework?

The Ocean Literacy Framework is comprised of two consensus documents:

  • Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles of Ocean Sciences K-12 (also known as the Ocean Literacy Principles); and
  • Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K-12 (also known as the Scope & Sequence).

Both of these documents are also available in print and download forms.

Use this Framework Shortcut to access the webpages for all seven principles and their associated conceptual flow diagrams.


There are seven Ocean Literacy principles and the complementary Scope and Sequence is comprised of 28 conceptual flow diagrams. The Ocean Literacy principles remain a work in progress; they reflect our efforts to date defining ocean literacy.

These Ocean Literacy Principles are correlated to the National Science Education Standards (NSES) Science Content Standards.

The Scope and Sequence shows, graphically,

  • the science concepts underlying the Principles and how they are connected;
  • developmental appropriateness – what students need to know to help them understand the higher-level concepts; and
  • how instruction of the concepts might “flow”.

How was the Ocean Literacy Framework created?

The Ocean Literacy Framework was developed by many scientists and educators from the ocean sciences education community. Their efforts built on previous work to define ocean literacy, assess what the public knows about the ocean, and redress the lack of ocean-related content in state and national science education standards, instructional materials and assessments. Explore the Foundations section to learn about how the ocean sciences education community came together to create these documents and ignite a movement within ocean sciences and beyond.