Helping Kids Help the Ocean

A beach clean-up in Malaysia brings young people together to care for their coastline.
A beach clean-up in Malaysia brings young people together to care for their coastline. (Liew Shan Sern/Marine Photobank)

An 11-year-old in Texas is saddened by the oil spill and begins searching for something she can do to help.

A 13-year-old in Washington, D.C., convinces her mom to make small changes in their daily routine that make their home more ocean-friendly.

A 7-year-old spends a part of his Saturday trip to the museum learning about the ocean—and some of the things that are harming it—and decides to donate the two prized nickels he found that morning to help the ocean.

A 15-year-old decides she wants to be a marine biologist so she can learn about and save the ocean. She dreams of seeing her favorite creature, the leatherback sea turtle, with her own eyes.

These are real young people whom we have met or heard from on the Ocean Portal in the past few months. They are kids who know that the ocean (along with the rest of our blue planet) needs our help.

Hearing from them reminds us that kids and teens are a powerful force. From the playground to the locker room, from the Scout troop to the lunch table, young people have a lot of influence. Not only can they join forces with friends their age to make a difference, but they can get family, teachers, coaches, and other adults in the community excited about taking action. They can help adults shake off some of our own cynicism.

So how can we help them and encourage their instinct to make a difference? Where do we start when they ask, what can I do to help the ocean? To help the Gulf of Mexico? To help whales and sharks and other marine life?

Here are some suggestions:

Begin with small steps. Encourage the child or teen to learn more about what they are most passionate about by exploring some of the problems the ocean faces in our Get Involved section. Then, encourage them to get started with some simple actions you can take right away. For some ideas, check out our list of 5 Simple Things You Can Do for the Ocean, and our other featured actions on the Find Your Blue page. It may feel like a drop in the bucket at first, but your actions will make a difference. You can also double your impact by talking to friends, family members, or classmates about what they can do.

Need inspiration? Check out some of these cool projects started or inspired by kids:

  • Visit Oceans4Ever, a blog about protecting the ocean written by 10-year-old Alexa and her mom, Cindy. This mother-daughter team never runs out of ideas for helping the ocean or inspiring stories about kids who have made a difference.
  • Watch the music video for "Blue Planet"—a song written by musician Sam Lardner, who hopes that the messages in his music will inspire people—young and old—to protect the ocean.
  • Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Student Center, which has tons of information about all kinds of environmental issues as well as tips on how to inspire others, such as becoming a Climate Ambassador.
  • Check out the Ocean Voices Project to hear people of all ages talk about their connections to the ocean. You can even add your own voice to the project.
  • Join the Water Planet Challenge service-learning project from our friends at EarthEcho International. It’s an excellent way to see the impact you can have when you join forces with other young people around the globe.

The tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reminded us all that our ocean is very important—and also fragile. Whatever you do, wherever you live, your food, transportation, trash, clothing, and water use have an impact on the ocean. And you can help make sure we all have a healthy ocean for generations to come. Get started today.

And please, let us know how it’s going. We are very interested to hear from people who are making a positive difference for the ocean. You can leave comments, vote in the polls, and send us your ideas about simple ways to help the ocean. We can’t wait to hear from you!

July 2010