Knowledge is Power. How the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) is Empowering Students Across the Globe.

by Brightmark August 22nd, 2022
Watch below for an exclusive interview with Betty Bergnes, the Director of Education at the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

 

 

Please provide background on yourself and your role at the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

I have 20+ years of experience in teaching and education. I have dedicated my career to working with schools, providing them with the best educational tools, and impacting hundreds of classrooms and thousands of students. My career in education started as an elementary classroom teacher, where I taught students of varying grade levels. After eight years in the classroom, I transitioned to provide district support to teachers and students as a Curriculum Support Specialist for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Wanting to expand my educational reach, I then left the district. I worked for several educational technology companies, creating strong relationships and supporting educational initiatives in Science and STEAM with many districts across the state of Florida.
In my personal life, I try to incorporate eco-principles in my life, and I share my passion for eco-awareness, eco-education, and conservation. I took it upon myself to connect with several local schools and teach students about eco-awareness and how our choices impact our environment. I would volunteer and provide eco lessons to classrooms across Miami-Dade County. In 2016 I started a bamboo toothbrush company to combat all the plastic toothbrushes in our oceans. Throughout the year, I team up with the organization Clean This Beach Up to promote and participate in local beach clean-ups.

 

How did you become affiliated with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation? How did your role at GHOF come to be?

A content partner of the foundation reached out to a friend of mine and asked if she knew anyone in education that was also interested in conservation. It’s an exciting skill set for the foundation as I have worked in the education technology space for over 15 years. So, I have deep relationships in districts with Science Supervisors tasked with vetting and bringing new content to their districts.

As the Director of Education, I am tasked with promoting and implementing all the educational marine and environmental content that the foundation has created, curated, and developed with our partners with schools districts, individual schools, students, community partners, and anyone interested in learning about marine and environmental animals and issues. Taking this content and supporting teachers to deliver it through their classroom instruction will positively impact and seed the next generations of ocean stewards. 

I’m excited. We are off to an excellent start! We have 12 districts, over 25 training sessions, and formally trained 558 teachers to date this year. My goal for 2022 is to train 1000 teachers! I am excited to continue to expand my love of education and conservation. With large-scale environmental issues facing our planet, I believe inspiring the next generation of conservationists is imperative. Together with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation education team, I am committed to sharing the Guy Harvey marine and environmental content with thousands of teachers and students in K-12, providing teachers with exciting professional development experiences, establishing habitat partners, and developing conservation initiatives with like-minded organizations.

I believe “It is our responsibility to protect our oceans through education to influence and inspire the next generation of conservationists.” 

 

Why do you believe education is essential to protecting our planet? What challenges do you face when educating individuals?

I feel there are two critical aspects of using education to protect the planet. I think showing the younger generation the impact humans are having on the environment is extremely important. Sharing films, documentaries, research information, and even the less formal social media posts is essential and the first step; however, when you get that same young generation to participate in activities to support environmental awareness, like clean-ups, advocacy, and peer education, that changes them, it opens up their perspective and understanding on how human impact is affecting our environment. When they see the amount of trash on the beach, in the ocean, or in other waterways, they pick it up. Then come back the next week and see the amount of garbage that washes ashore daily, weekly, and monthly. That is truly eye-opening. You are less likely to contribute to the problem when you become part of the solution.

Educators are tasked with many challenges; high-stakes testing usually precedes environmental education. So, creating standards-based lessons so teachers can address the required state standards using environmental content can be a win for teachers and the planet.

 

What do you believe makes education strong? Where could the United States improve as it relates to education?

Knowledge is power, right? So, education is the first step that leads to action, action leads to change, and change leads to positive improvement/s, both in our activities and collective efforts—for example, bringing a reusable water bottle. I remember when no one in schools used them, and now the majority do. I would like to see a pivot or shift from a standardized test focus to a more problem-solving, student-centered (supporting students to find out what passion/purpose), experiential learning focus, or opportunities for students. 

One of the foundation’s main focuses is to work with corporate and private funding sources to provide students with out-of-school opportunities to visit local habitats, participate in actionable environmental awareness activities, like go to the keys and learn about Coral, take a class trip to Manatee Lagoon and learn about manatees.

 

What is your favorite ocean animal? Why?

My favorite ocean animal is the sea lion! Especially the rare white sea lion. These mammals are not only adorably cute, but they are also brilliant. Like dolphins, sea lions have large brains, which scientists suspect contribute to their intelligence, which so far, they are the only mammals that can show they use logic. I find sea lions fascinating and have seen them in large colonies when I visited Paracas, Peru. Experts have observed that sea lions can understand basic syntax and commands. They can do so when trainers use artificial sign language to teach them tricks and other tasks, which is why they are. They also seem to have a silly side to them. Their little faces with those whiskers are so cute!

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