Nfld. & Labrador

With $1.25M donation, Hebron hopes students unlock ocean potential

The Hebron Project is donating $1.25 million over three years to the Oceans Learning Partnership, for teachers and K-12 students across the province.

Participant in teaching fellow program says it's 'critical for today's youth'

Elizabeth Wright, left, and Lesley Grattan are both connected to the Oceans Learning Partnership. They checked out some of the technology on the Paul A. Sacuta supply vessel Friday in St. John's during a funding announcement from Hebron. (Gary Locke/CBC)

The Hebron Project is donating $1.25 million over three years to the Oceans Learning Partnership, for teachers and K-12 students across the province to get hands-on understanding of the ocean. 

"We do think this helps make a difference to our children's lives, and of course, for the future of our province," said Chris Warren, manager of research and development for Exxon Mobil Canada's Hibernia and Hebron projects. 

Announcing the funding on Friday in St. John's, Warren said it brings the total donation from Hebron to the OLP to more than $2.1 million since 2012. The company hopes its support will engage more young students in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and inspire them to pursue careers in the field. 

"As a young boy growing up on the west coast of Newfoundland, I would have had great benefit of being able to take part in an OLP-type program," said Warren.

Chris Warren announced $1.2 million in funding over three years from the Hebron Project to the Oceans Learning Partnership on Friday in the St. John's harbour. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Maria Giovannini and Lesley Grattan were onboard the Paul A. Sacuta supply vessel, docked in the harbour, for the announcement. They both work with OLP, and said it's for teachers to involve their students in learning about the ocean. 

"Taking them out on beaches, on vessels, and really getting them immersed and learning about the ocean around us," said Giovannini, explaining it was created to fill a gap in the province's curriculum. 

The OLP works directly with schools, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, and places like the Manuel's River Interpretation Centre and Ocean Sciences Centre. 

Hebron's funding announcement was held on the Paul A. Sacuta supply vessel docked in the St. John's harbour on Friday. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Grattan said the oil project's contribution will focus on the educators themselves. 

"One teacher reaches at least 200 students every year, and it's different students every year, so this is just going to spread," she said.

"It matters because right now, I don't believe that the kids in the province really are aware or understand all of the opportunities that are associated with the ocean," both on and offshore, said Grattan. 

Getting kids excited about coral

Elizabeth Wright is studying to be a teacher at Memorial University in St. John's, and has already participated in OLP through the Hibernia Teaching Fellow Program. 

The program will help teachers like her create exciting lesson plans in experiential-based learning around marine sciences. 

Elizabeth Wright asks a question with the OLP's Lesley Grattan behind her during a tour of the Paul A. Sacuta supply vessel on Friday in St. John's. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Through the fellowship, Wright worked at the Johnson Geo Centre on grade four programming in deep sea coral ecology and education. 

"It was really exciting, I loved it," she said with a grin. "It gave me a better understanding of what goes into experiential learning, it gave me a better eye into what goes into a good field trip versus something that just has flashy activities that mean nothing."

"And they care about what they're learning."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Anthony Germain and Here and Now

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