Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX’s X-Oceans receives TD Friends of the Environment Foundation grant

April 8th, 2021
Pictured are some of the members of the X-Oceans team including undergradate and graduate students

StFX Biology Department’s X-Oceans outreach program was recently awarded the Bank of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (FEF) grant of $4,000. X-Oceans is the first ocean literacy outreach program of its kind in northeastern Nova Scotia. The program is aimed at youth in grades Primary-12 in Antigonish and neighbouring counties, providing both on-campus and off-campus outreach and is facilitated by StFX students and instructors.

“Members of the biology department have been doing outreach in a variety of ways for over a decade, serving approximately 2,200 youth per year. With ocean literacy requests increasing to the point of doubling in the last few years, the department has been motivated to create X-Oceans, an organized framework to meet the growing demand and secure additional resources to expand their efforts,” says X-Oceans Outreach Coordinator Regina Cozzi, who is also a senior laboratory instructor and a research assistant.

She says the current provincial and territory education curriculum offers only a single elective course in Grade 11 with an educational focus on oceans. “Not surprisingly, knowledge gaps in ocean concepts have been demonstrated in a number of local surveys of youth. The X-Oceans organizers aim to address this issue by providing ocean-based learning activities, through school visits and university-based camps. The activities are structured by grade level for appropriate learning expectations.”

Mrs. Cozzi says the department is well suited for such an initiative due to the live invertebrates, small vertebrates and aquatic plants housed in its salt-water touch-tanks, their 25 qualified staff and faculty who are experts in aquatic and marine biology and a large selection of curated, preserved, marine organisms and marine bone collections. 

The goal of X-Oceans is to actively engage and teach youth about ocean health, marine biodiversity, humanity’s disruptions of ocean ecosystems, and how there’s an important interconnectedness between oceans, environmental sustainability, climate change and human health. 

In addition, knowing that ocean literacy has many facets and involves interdisciplinary connections, this initiative fosters opportunities for youth to be inspired by undergraduate and graduate StFX student leaders and academia to continue in higher education and pursue diverse pathways and career opportunities, she says. 

Current X-Oceans team members include several biology laboratory instructors, professors, animal care facility staff and StFX students Emily Lavergne, Ella Maltby, Matt Freeman, Lauren Sobot, Sarah Silver Slayter, Mackenzie Arndt, Trinity McIntyre, Tiffany Bondoc, Sheldon Holmes, Ryan Small, Lia Blackett, Nicole Cameron and Megan P. Fass. Newcomers Gavin Hiltz, Madison Pendleton and Martina Gallant are presently working on developing activities for near-future outreach work, thanks to the TD FEF grant. 

These activities include a mix of hands-on activities, scientific inquiry and experiential learning approaches alongside ocean-based pedagogical materials and live organisms to stimulate curiosity, promote ocean preservation and stewardship in youth. The core idea being: “If you see it, touch it & learn about it, then you will want to protect it”. 

For additional information please visit the X-Oceans outreach website.

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