Summit for Ocean Literacy Under Sail

Nancy Richardson launches the summit

It takes one person with passion to create change. Nancy Richardson, one of the earliest members of NMEA, brought together a community of NMEA educators and partners to share ocean literacy principles with colleagues who are involved in Tall Ships America ‘Adventure and Education Under Sail.’ These folks know the sea and have an intimate connection with the sea, as part of their daily lives.

45 participants and ten volunteers arrived early to San Pedro for the Tall Ships America 46th Annual Conference, Raising our Sails, Raising a Workforce to participate in a daylong Summit for Ocean Literacy Under Sail. Learning quickly got underway with hands-on investigations guided by local Southern California experts Kurt Holland, Dena Deck, Annie Richardson, Peter Falcon, Kalina Valev, Linda Chilton, Mark Friedman, Nina Quaratella, and Gwen Noda. Each facilitator enabled participants to become engaged with the bigger ideas of each of the seven ocean literacy principles. These educators shared their expertise and passion for ocean literacy at stations designed to connect ocean literacy with experiences aboard Tall Ships from charting a course across one ocean or exploring the diversity of biofouling communities or supporting youth in taking action to address human impacts of microplastics.

Lynn Whitley shared an overview of the history, impacts, and resources associated with Ocean Literacy to tie the individual stations together followed by a session of brainstorming on how put ocean literacy into action after the Summit. This forum provided an opportunity to share challenges, strategies and needs for Ocean Literacy implementation efforts once at home aboard ship or alongside on shore. This list of ideas as well as other resource links for each session and photos will be posted for all at

No day of ocean literacy would be complete without applying new knowledge. As we readied to depart for Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, we found our numbers had grown. The morning session was joined by many others (recruited from morning participants’ enthusiasm) with a walking tour to the Salinas de San Pedro Saltmarsh and a behind the scenes guided tour of the Aquarium concluding with a visit to the library. It was evident participants loved applying knowledge by doing. Conversations explored how cultural, historical, and spiritual connections naturally intersect with life sciences!

Nancy’s goal of bringing together communities to share ideas, to network and in the process make one another stronger was a resounding success. Alice Cochran, leadership and governance consultant and Tall Ships America member, and Nancy demonstrated the power of joining efforts with an ‘energy stick.’

Energy Stick in action

In order to extend the ocean literacy and networking discussion, Lynn, Nancy, Dena and Linda set up an NMEA exhibit hall table on Tuesday. Later in the day, Nancy and Dena Deck led a general session to debrief and plan next steps from the Summit. Topics of discussion for next steps included supporting Ocean Literacy with youth-of-all-ages through citizen science, inclusive engagement, workforce development, STEAM competencies, and environmentally sustainable practices.

Hopefully, these discussions will continue on a local level, in the regional chapters of NMEA reaching out and welcoming Tall Ships staff and volunteers and we will continue to strengthen the effort toward ocean literate communities as we reach into UNESCO’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development with its inclusion of Ocean Literacy! The Tall Ships America community is looking forward to working more closely with NMEA. We’ll try to promote attendance at regional meetings and supporting a session at the NMEA conference. Three new NMEA members and three new members of Tall Ships America are very excited to participate with the memberships that each organization donated which were distributed during the session wrap up.

Wrapping up the summit

We networked with people representing a multitude of perspectives and affiliations from the Sail Training International, US Coast Guard Academy and USCG Barque EAGLE; USC Sea Grant Program, USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, NAMEPA, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, NMEA Ocean Literacy Committee, Mystic Seaport Museum’s Schooner BRILLIANT; US Park Service; NASA-JPL; Galveston’s Barque ELISSA (sailing with astronauts!); Sail2Change; Girl Scouts; Sea Scouts; the LAMI TopSail Youth Program on Brigantines IRVING JOHNSON and EXY JOHNSON, and many more!

Lifelong lessons learned through sailing together strengthen
Leadership ~ TeamShip ~ Stewardship!

We’re all ‘shipmates’ sailing Planet Ocean...
Let’s sail in harmony with science and spirit at sea and ashore!