Ocean acidification (OA), the change in ocean chemistry due to increasing concentrations of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is an environmental problem that is an active area of scientific research yet remains largely outside of the public’s awareness. It is often assumed that if we raise OA awareness, then the public will support and take action to help mitigate the problem. This research project examines this assumption through the lens of educating high school students about OA. The research included three phases: (i) review of existing teaching resources on OA, (ii) development and refinement of a new OA curriculum based on strengths and gaps identified during the review process, and (iii) a longitudinal experiment testing the impacts to knowledge and attitudes of two approaches to teaching about OA.
This study has implications for those engaging in OA outreach and education efforts specifically, and for environmental education campaigns in general. During this study, we found that at least 90 teaching resources focused on OA are already available. These resources provide teachers with multiple approaches to teaching about OA, yet do not adequately address the multiple impacts of OA nor teach students about ways to help address the problem. We developed our own curriculum that underwent four rounds of revisions before appearing in the form presented here. Our experiment found that our teaching intervention increased knowledge but that attitudinal changes, when present, did not persist over time. Despite this lack of attitude change, student attitudes were generally sufficient to support mitigation actions.