OLYMPIC sailor Sir Ben Ainslie has called for the ocean to form part of young children’s school curriculum.
The sportsman and his wife, Lady George Ainslie, have united in making the plea as they become ocean ambassadors for the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth.
The Isle of Wight couple, who have links to Portsmouth by way of the sailor’s HQ at the Camber, have said they are concerned young people can go through their education without learning about the ocean – despite it being the largest living space on the planet.
Sir Ben said: ‘It is the holistic approach about what the ocean is about and then coming on to the challenge of plastics in the ocean and eliminating single use plastics.
‘Getting them inspired about the ocean and conservation and pushing them to take part in effecting change.’
Sir Ben said the issue was ‘very close to my heart’ – particularly because his daughter Bellatrix is now two-and-a-half – and dubbed education on it ‘absolutely critical’.
Lady Ainslie said: ‘The problems our oceans are facing aren't just relevant to our lives now but will be to her life.
‘We learn about the Earth in schools but we really need to learn about our oceans. If you love something, you want to protect it.’
The couple visited a primary school in Plymouth on Tuesday and watched pupils take a lesson from the NMA, which has a national school outreach programme.
‘They were completely enthralled and fascinated,’ Lady Ainslie said.
The NMA project uses tools including virtual reality to teach children about the underwater world.
‘That sort of interactive teaching really hits home – they really get it,’ she said.
‘If they understand that message at such a young age, it will become ingrained in them. They will end up being the educators.'
Sir Ben said his aim was to build NMA’s outreach programme across 20 sites in the UK by 2024.
The NMA is asking the Department for Education and other statutory bodies to support teachers by adding marine elements to the National Curriculum.
Roger Maslin is chief executive officer of the NMA.
‘It's great that Ben and his family have joined our growing team of ocean ambassadors and are passionate about helping us on our journey to support teachers to include marine topics in their teaching of the curriculum,’ Mr Maslin said.
‘In the future, our ultimate goal is to see the ocean added as a core topic across a variety of subjects within the National Curriculum.
‘As a charity we have set a target of reaching one million school children and families per year, within the next five years, and with Ben and Georgie's strong connection with sport and the oceans, they will play an important role in helping us to achieve this.’
The Ainslies' education plea comes after environmental campaigners, led by Vivienne Westwood’s son Joe Corre, hit out at the sailor's 2021 Americas Cup team sponsor, Ineos, last week.
The firm is believed to be the largest owner of fracking licences in the UK.