Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Enhancing Ocean Literacy: StFX’s X-Oceans receives funding that will increase outreach, including with mobile touch-tank 

June 21st, 2022
X-Oceans, an ocean literacy program developed in the StFX Biology Department, is recipient of a three-year award from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. As part of this funding, X-Oceans was able to purchase a portable marine touch-tank to reach more youth in rural schools. Here, X-Oceans director and senior biology lab instructor Regina Cozzi (second left) and student assistants are pictured by the touch-tank.

A StFX program that promotes ocean literacy to youth in northeastern Nova Scotia has received over $201,000 in funding that will help see the program expand, including purchasing a mobile touch-tank to reach more youth in rural schools.

X-Oceans, an ocean literacy program developed in the StFX Biology Department, is recipient of a three-year award from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, for a project titled: “X-Oceans: Enhancing Ocean Literacy in Youth in Rural Northeastern Nova Scotia.” This project addresses Ocean Decade Outcome #7: An Inspiring and Engaging Ocean, helping youth to understand and value the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development.

X-Oceans director and senior biology lab instructor Regina Cozzi says they’re ecstatic to hear this news. 

“We are super happy to be able to expand our outreach and provide ocean literacy to youth in rural communities,” she says. “Because of this funding, we’re now able to visit schools a little further out of our immediate zone, we’re able to get more equipment and supplies and do more activities, and we’re able to increase the manpower to do that.”

Ms. Cozzi says the first thing X-Oceans has purchased is a portable marine touch-tank. 

“We can take this touch-tank, load it into a van and go to schools and communities to do outreach,” she says.

“The impact is huge. If you look at rural communities and smaller schools, it’s not always easy for youth to be able to jump in a car and attend a camp at StFX. This approach breaks down that barrier. We can go to them. We reach more youth in that way.”

The tank, she says, will hold a variety of species including different types of local and tropical sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs, lobster and other marine animals. 

Bringing this experience to youth will only assist in their mission to help more young people fully understand ocean concepts and how oceans are related to our everyday lives, our health, our climate and much more, she says. X-Oceans is a program that offers hands-on activities and workshops to promote ocean sciences, preservation and marine biodiversity to schools, summer camps both on and off campus, and youth organizations. 

X-Oceans also receives funding from NSERC PromoScience and the Canada Summer Jobs program. 

It’s existed at StFX for about 13 years but was only more formally organized in 2018. Along with students, many Biology Department members are involved with the program. 

Ms. Cozzi says not only is the expanded outreach educating youth in our communities, it’s also helping StFX students (X-Oceans was able to hire about 14 students for its spring-summer period and typically has over 20 students involved in the program year-round) who are gaining experience in leadership, communicating with the public, sharing their knowledge and expertise, and acting as mentors for young learners in promoting ocean-related STEM careers and encouraging the development of youth from local citizens to global citizens.

Ms. Cozzi says this year she’s made it a point to actively recruit more youth from diversified backgrounds, knowing how important it is for younger children to see someone of a similar background as a role model.

This project, she says, has even been endorsed by UNESCO. “Congratulations! After a thorough review process, the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) has endorsed your Decade Project as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (the Ocean Decade),” reads a note from the organization. This provides the project with greater visibility and access to international networks. 

“Making information about Canada’s oceans accessible to Canadians, regardless of where they live or how young they are, is foundational to protecting ocean resources now and for future generations. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is pleased to partner with StFX and the X-Oceans program with this innovative educational curriculum that will inspire wonder and curiosity in Nova Scotia youth,” says the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

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