Despite current COVID 19-prescribed restrictions, in order to commemorate World Ocean Day, the University of Malta teamed up once again this year with the International Ocean Institute (IOI), the Malta National Aquarium and the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA - Blue Flag Beaches Programme) to organise its annual flagship ocean literacy event with local schools.
Given that the trademark visit of the Aquarium facilities by selected local schools participating in ocean-inspired artworks could not take place this year, an alternative activity has to be conjured. This took the form of online quizzes for all local Primary and Secondary School students, which were formulated by Prof. Alan Deidun, Malta’s Ocean Ambassador and which were launched during the month of June.
The quizzes featured questions on various facets of oceanography and marine biology, ranging from questions related to physical features of the global ocean, to questions related to marine species and species and even a few questions related to Malta’s Blue Flag beaches and to the EU Commission’s Ocean Mission Board. This kaleidoscopic diversity of questions prompted participating students to invest time and effort in researching the topics in question. The success of the online approach has prompted organisers to consider a hybrid approach next year, with an online didactic component being offered in conjunction with a hands-on practical experience.
Organisers of this annual flagship event were swept off their feet as almost 500 students participated within the online quizzes. The students registering the highest scores, as well as the schools with the highest student participation rate, were rewarded with book prizes generously provided by the IOI and the MTA. The prize-giving ceremony, hosted by the Malta National Aquarium, was presided over by Education Minister Owen Bonnici, who paid tribute to Malta’s ocean governance giants, including the driving force behind UNCLOS Arvid Pardo, IMLI Director and ITLOS vice-president David Attard and former EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg.
This is the fifth year running that this annual ocean literacy event is being organised locally. In testimony of the increasing importance being afforded to ocean literacy, the United Nations has designated the upcoming 2021-2030 decade as the Ocean Sciences one. In 2017, the University of Malta, through Prof. Alan Deidun, hosted the annual European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) confrence in Malta.