Oceans for Life

Our Precious Oceans
Linking oceanography with geography-the study of the oceans with the study of the Earth- is a key step on the path to “ocean literacy:’ Indeed, the synergy between the two disciplines invites science and social- studies teachers to enrich and cross-promote one another’s core curriculum: As science teachers learn to present ocean processes and life-forms within a geographic context, their counterparts discover why an understanding of the life, physical, and earth sciences can form such a strong thread in the social fabric. The ultimate goal of this cross-pollination of ideas is a fairly simple one: to help students comprehend how and why all life on Earth arises from – and remains dependent on – our precious oceans.

About this brochure

In 1994, a broad sampling of educators, parents, and other concerned citizens got together to identify the critical subject matter, skills, and perspectives that all students in the United States should master to achieve a high degree of geographic literacy.

These 18 voluntary standards for geography education are organized as six “essential elements”:

1. the world in spatial terms;

2. places and regions;

3. physical systems;

4. human systems;

5. environment and society;

6. uses of geography.

The Scope and Sequence Chart inside was developed using the national geography standards and essential elements as the basis to identify and organize key ocean concepts. These concepts are introduced at various stepping-stones in a child’s voyage of discovery from kindergarten to 12th grade. If you are a teacher, a parent, or a curriculum writer, you can use this tool to monitor and encourage a student’s progress throughout that learning journey.

It may take time for textbooks, curricula, and standard testing regimes to catch up with the needs of a swiftly changing world and impart a sense of the oceans’ Significance to all people. Through your immediate impact on the next generation of the planet’s caretakers. you have unique opportunities to shape the future of the ocean-right now.


Oceans for Life was developed in January, 2002 during an online conference with the following participants:

Tina Bishop College of Exploration
Sarah Witham Bednarz Texas A&M University
Jen Brady Center of Image Processing in Education
William Bragg College of Exploration
Debbie Brice San Marcos Middle School
Julie Bursek NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Francesca Cava National Geographic Society
Randy Colton Weston Elementary School
Patricia Dubose Camden County High School
Toni Eugene National Geographic Society writer/editor consultant
Ron Gird NOAA National Weather Service
Lisa Hungness National Geographic Society technology manager
Robert Landsman ANOVA Science Education Consulting
Judy Lemus University of Southern California Sea Grant
Mellie Lewis Altholton Elementary School
Eric Lindstrom NASA Oceanography
Peggy Lubchenco La Colina junior High School
Joy Martin Huntington Beach Junior High
George Matsumoto Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Sarah Schoedinger Consortium for Ocean Research and Education
Paul Spring Grants Pass High School
Peter Tuddenham College of Exploration
Sharon Walker Outreach Institute of Marine Science
Lynn Whitley University of Southern California Sea Grant

External review and expert advice was also provided by:

Sarah Witham Bednarz Texas A&M University
Roger Downs Pennsylvania State University
Andres Durstenfeld Monterey Peninsula College
Justin Kenney Pew Foundatian
George Matsumoto Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Glenn Schuster U.S. Satellite Laboratory
Jodi Vender Pennsylvania State University
Sharon Walker L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium
Lynn Whitley Sea Grant Program, University of Southern California Sea Grant

The Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP) promotes Standards-based geography instruction as an integral part of every student’s educational experience. GENIP has endorsed Oceans for Life for using geography as a model for the study of Earth’s oceans