STEM and Soft Skills

STEM & Soft Skills 2/7: Oceans

Ian Couchman
July 31, 2020

What can cuttlefish teach us?

If I ask you to picture the land, you would probably ask me which bit; the Sahara desert looks very different to downtown New York. You may also populate the image with people; with relationships; with emotion.

However, if I asked you to picture the ocean, you probably wouldn't. The state might change, for example, it could be crashing waves and turbulent skies or mirror like seas under a blanket of stars. One way or the other, the image you conjure is likely to be one from above.

Look beneath and things are very different.

The oceans cover over 70% of the Earth's surface and 95% of these oceans remains unexplored. 95%!!!

There are over a quarter of a million species of marine animal and plant species that we know of and scientists estimate this represents approximately 10% of the total. 4 new species are defined every day! Some large, some smaller.

Dig a little deeper and you find a world of relationships. Collaboration and conflict.

Everyone who has seen 'Finding Nemo' will be familiar with the pairing of the sea anemone and the clownfish. The anemone protects and conceals the clownfish with poisonous arms in exchange for the fish combing the anemone for parasites, generating nutrients through excrement and fending off predators. Likewise, decorators crabs use sponges as camouflage. The crabs get some protection and a source of food from algae growing in the sponge whilst the sponge is exposed to a much wider range of feeding opportunities due to the crabs mobility.

Wonderful teamwork.

Even more so when you think these creatures cannot speak to each other. Just because they cannot speak as you or I would doesn't mean they cannot communicate or express emotion.

Take the cuttlefish.

They can selectively change the colours in different sections of their bodies allowing them to project different messages in different directions. For example, they may choose to be bright and multicoloured in the direction of a potential mate, whilst also blending in to the background to potential predators. The majority of us will have seen cuttlefish bone on the beach but not considered just how amazing their former owners are.

So next time we talk about the ocean with our kids let's move away from the crashing seas and ponder the interactions between creatures great and small.

Now let's reflect upon what we can learn.

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Questions for kids

Collaboration: How do you think the first clownfish and first anemone agreed to collaborate?

Team working often requires people with different strengths working together. What are the challenges associated with that? How important is trust in a team?

Feelings: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being able to control how others view your emotions?

We are sometimes selective about which emotions we want to share and often hold them in. Why do you think we do that? What is the healthier approach? Would you like to know more about how others feel about what you are saying and how you are behaving? How would you feel if you thought someone was hiding their emotions from you? And why might they do that?


Philosophy: Is it fair that some animals live and others die?

Discuss the natural food chain, exploring the conflicts under the sea. What would happen if there was no conflict? How important is population control? Could sea creatures ever create their own "United Nations" to diplomatically resolve conflicts?

Let's start some great conversations with our kids and check out the App for lots more ideas!

Read the next blog in the series here.

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Written by
Ian Couchman

Ian is a dad of 2 kids and leads a team of engineers delivering technical services to the renewable energy sectors. He is passionate about green energy, STEM education, and soft skills alike, and will be guest posting for KidCoach to bring us his very own Summer Challenge!

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