Chelsie Archibald was one of those children with orca whales on her bedspread and sea creatures on her walls. She had dozens of picture books about the ocean and was enchanted by stories of young girls living off the sea. This interest did not wane when her family moved to Ontario and every summer she returned to her Halifax-area home to visit her extended family and to smell the salt air.
“When I dig through my stuff that I kept from when I was a kid, it seems I’ve always been there,” she says, a smile evident in her voice over the phone. “I always loved the ocean and have really vivid memories of … discovering a touch tank and exploring new beaches. Some kids love horses, I had the ocean,” she says. But it wasn’t until she went to university that she realized there were others who felt the same deep attachment as she had to the marine environment.
And because the ocean has been so important to her all her life she can’t point to the moment that she fell in love with it, but she knows exactly when her passion for teaching children about the ocean swept her up: it was while teaching marine science at summer camp. “I was energized by the response of the kids. We went whale watching. We went kayaking … My next question was so what do I do with that?” admits Archibald. The first answer that occurred to her was to serve as a volunteer.
Whether working with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans or as a marine researcher, she always made time to volunteer with organizations that helped children to understand their environment. “For me, there’s no other better way for kids to learn than by really allowing them to experience something themselves,” she says. And it is that passion and that commitment to hands on learning that make her an ideal fit for theOceans Learning Partnership (OLP).
Based in Holyrood, on Conception Bay, about a half hour’s drive from St. John’s, OLP exposes K-12 students to the world of ocean science and technolgy. For the past three years this non-profit organization has been exciting a whole new generation about the marine frontier. They are revealing the ocean to them in a whole new way, integrating technology with real-world field experience.
Chelsie Archibald started as a volunteer after meeting the founders, Jan Negrijn and Maria Giovannini. Before long, she was invited to join OLP full-time and serves now as the manager of field programming.
Her time with OLP has been deeply fulfilling because she has so much in common with the organization and shares the same commitment as Negrijn and Giovannini in fostering a love for the ocean. “They shared the same view as me that hands-on learning just couldn’t be beaten, and it could lead to all kinds of possibilities for kids.”
She says the young people who participate in OLP’s programming can discover a new passion for something that may not have been on their radar beforehand—navigation, marine biology—all this from not just looking at the ocean but really “seeing” through the lens of an ROV for example. One student, after completing a dissection, announced she wanted to go into medicine.
“There’s a real gap in our education system,” Archibald says. “We’re a coastal province. We have this huge ocean sector economy… We’re all naturally curious about the ocean… yet we all grow up knowing so little about it… I’m just trying to raise our understanding of the ocean right there in our own backyard.”
At OceansAdvance, we welcome opportunities to partner with innovators like Chelsie and the Oceans Learning Partnership to connect with and inspire potential future leaders for this Cluster.