The German interdisciplinary Cluster of Excellence “Future Ocean” looks back at twelve years of school programs that span from initiating a children’s university to writing schoolbooks, and eventually creating an informal learning lab for ocean sciences: the ocean:lab of Kiel Science Factory at Kiel University. The ocean:lab which breaches the gap between school education and university research is visited by whole school classes who spent a day working in groups on ocean topics like anthropogenic influences on the ocean (e.g. overfishing, plastic pollution, eutrophication and noise pollution, climate change with warming, ocean acidification, sea level rise) as well as the sustainable use of our oceans. About 5.000 pupils from level 3 to 13 from all school forms are working in groups, coached by trainee teaching students from natural sciences and humanities. A German nationwide citizen science project on plastic litter in the ocean and in rivers was carried out for five years and an international EU project titled: ‘Using marine mammals to make science education and careers more attractive for young people’ has been completed. The latter was carried out by a European consortium of education and research institutions from 5 countries and developed materials and digital media in 6 languages as well as summer schools and international teacher trainings. In all projects special expedition boxes that can be borrowed by schools were developed for different ocean topics.
In our twelve years of Future Ocean school programs we reached some impressive numbers of participants and impact. Pointing out some highlights: 14.600 pupils we reached with our citizen science activities on plastic pollution, more than 21.000 children participated in our children’s university, over 50 schools borrowed our expedition boxes and more than 400 teachers participated in our different teacher trainings.
The experiences with education for sustainable development and our educational setting in cooperation with didactic experts (strength: e.g. huge impact and public interest, and weakness: e.g. compromises required) as well as practical advice and recommendations (e.g. use expedition boxes to loan and involve trainee teacher students) are addressed and reflected in the presentation.