Is the news media marine literate?
By Bob Winters, Educating Options www.educatingoptions.com.au
In this activity students will investigate a variety of marine related topics presented by the media and assess if the people writing articles and reporting on marine issues are marine literate.
As an alternative, students could watch a DVD of “Nemo” and in small groups research how accurate the movie is for different aspects of coral reef biology and ecology.
Keeping it to a simple concept, science or marine literacy is about people having a deep enough understanding to be able to make informed decisions and contribute to debates involving science or the marine environment.
• Access to the internet
• Access to the library, magazines and past newspapers
As a class share some of the marine related stories students can recall from the media. When they have run out of items they can recall provide some prompts? Examples are:
• What animal in the sea is most likely to be reported?
• What have you heard in the media about sharks?
• What was the last thing you recall about whales from the media?
• Are there reports on pollution of the sea?
• What other conservation issues have you heard about?
• What was the last news item you heard about concerning the Great Barrier Reef?
• Who can recall a news item about safety in the sea?
• What do the media have to say about fishing?
• Has anyone taken any interest in the supply of fish in shops?
Make a list of the five or six key ideas that have resulted from the class discussion.
Activity A – Internet marine news
Provide small groups of students five minutes to find three interesting news items on the internet concerning the marine environment. They are to report back to the class providing the following information:
1. What is the title of the article?
2. On what website was the article?
3. Two sentences about what the article was about?
4. Why was the article interesting?
The class might like to use a digital white board or data projector when reporting back to the class.
Activity B – Radio reporter
Small groups of students have ten minutes to prepare a thirty second news report about a topic of their choice. It can be factual or fictional.
As a class discuss how on radio there are many items in the news. What tone do reporters use when reading the news? How do they make the report interesting?
Students in their group are to choose a reporter who will take their turn to present their report to the class.
Students are to choose a marine topic of interest and develop some tools to assess if the people presenting the material a marine literate.
Activity A – Marine literacy
In this activity students create their own definition about what Marine Literacy is? Some prompt questions are:
• What do we mean when we use the word literacy when we are doing English?
• Suggest what the word marine literacy might mean?
• What kind of skills might a person have if they are marine literate?
As a class create your own working definition explaining what you believe marine literacy is. (It should at least have something to do with people understanding key marine concepts)
Have this definition in large writing displayed in a prominent place in the class.
Activity B – Our marine investigation topic
Students will form small working groups. Each group will need to choose a marine topic that is popular in the media to report on. The class could first choose a range of topics and then up to three students join the group.
Once a topic has been chosen, student should then source three but no more than five news articles to work on. It will be easiest to source articles on the internet, but they could use newspaper, magazine, radio or TV sources.
Students will need to make sure they retrieve their material as they do their investigation. Will they:
• Make a record of the website (can be risky if the information is deleted from the website)
• Print the article
• Make a photocopy
Activity C – Creating a marine literacy assessment tool
Revisit the definition the students made about marine literacy. As a class ask students how they could go about rating if the person writing am article was marine literate. What other criteria might they use? Some prompts include:
• Why have they written the article?
• Is the writer providing information?
• Is the information accurate?
• Have they provided all the information needed to accurately tell the story?
• How might you tell if the writer is biased?
• Should the writer present the major points of view?
• Is the writer trying to whip up emotions that does not all that relevant?
• How could to tell if the writer doesn’t care about the accuracy of the story?
Make a class assessment tool so students can go back to their news articles and assess how marine literate these articles are. Will the assessment tool give each area of assessment a score? What might the final score mean? What score should an article have for it to pass your assessment?
Activity D – Making assessments
Use the internet to do some background research into the topic about each article. Are there a variety of points of view? Find out more information about the topic.
Complete the assessment tool for as many of the articles that the allocated time will allow.
Students should report back to the class about some of the articles they assessed. In their report they should:
• Explain why some aspects of the articles they investigated deserved a high score
• Show what the writer had presented, indicating that their marine literacy was poor.
As a class discuss how news items could be improved.
Write a list of things the media (and their writers) could do to improve their own marine literacy.
Considering social action
Choose a number of articles the students investigated that they would like to respond to.
Students with the supervision of their teacher could write to the media organizations or directly to writers explaining what needs to be improved in the media so the public becomes better informed about marine issues.
You can find more marine curriculum material developed by Bob Winters by going to www.ausmepa.org.au