Representing NMEA at the Asia Marine Educators Association Conference by Meghan Marrero
This year, the biennial conference of the Asia Marine Educators Association took place in Qingdao, China—a beautiful city on the shores of the Yellow Sea. As the invited representative of NMEA, I was honored to give a keynote entitled “The Promotion of Marine Education in the United States by the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA),” and to moderate one of the other sessions. In my talk, I introduced our Asian colleagues to the work of NMEA, as well as the many opportunities that AMEA members can make use of from afar, e.g., participating in our webinars, using our Ocean Literacy resources, and applying for international scholarships.
Some other familiar NMEA faces at the conference included International Committee Co-Chair Géraldine Fauville, who presented on “Virtual Reality in Marine Education,” and another NMEA Past President Craig Strang, who gave a talk entitled, “Ocean Literacy: Developing Tools for Improving Public Understanding Around the World of the Importance of the Ocean.” Also in attendance were frequent NMEA conference-goers and members, AMEA President Tsuyoshi Sasaki, AMEA Secretary Ray Yen, and Russell Stevens from the Two Oceans Aquarium in South Africa.
With approximately 100 attendees from nations throughout Asia, including the Philippines, Korea, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the conference included two days of sessions, followed by field trips. Session topics varied and included topics such as using live aquaria in schools, education aboard tall ships, and ocean orientations of elementary students. The attendees and presenters included a group of teachers from both China and Taiwan who are participating in a “cross-strait” exchange program.
Visiting Qingdao gave us tours of schools with fantastic marine science facilities, beautiful coastline views, and delicious food.
On the third day of the conference, we traveled to three different schools in different areas of Qingdao, showcasing some of the formal marine educations efforts taking place in the region. We were even treated to a sunset cruise aboard one of the schools’ vessels—getting a unique perspective of the city and its sights. Like NMEA, the conference was a wonderful networking opportunity for professionals and provided the opportunity for educators in diverse marine education sectors to meet, share best practices, and develop ideas. The field trips, harbor cruise, and numerous meals, including a gala dinner, allowed time for informal conversations and relationship building.
Following the official conference days, most of the attendees traveled by rail to Qufu, where we visited the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is not as frequently visited by Westerners as others, so it represented a unique chance to experience an important element of Chinese history and culture. While I personally headed home after that trip, others also got to climb the famous mountain of Tashan, and experience breathtaking views of the countryside .
AMEA has been an important partner for NMEA since its founding at the 2015 NMEA Conference in Newport, Rhode Island. Our leaders have met for calls and panel discussions, and we are continuing to support each other by celebrating one another’s successes and leveraging shared opportunities. I have been invited to serve on the AMEA Advisory Board for the next two years, and I look forward to supporting my Asian colleagues as they continue to do excellent work in marine education. I am truly grateful for an amazing experience in Qingdao, and am looking forward to strengthening our connections to our colleagues in Asia.