Q&A: EarthEcho International
EarthEcho Advances Their Mission with Help of CourseArc
For over 15 years, EarthEcho International has worked tirelessly to inspire and engage youth to protect and restore the planet. While the month of April is Earth month, CourseArc believes that focusing on the health and sustainability of our planet should happen year-round. When CourseArc had the opportunity to partner with EarthEcho, we jumped at the chance to help the global environmental nonprofit advance their mission.
Philippe Cousteau, founder of EarthEcho International
CourseArc had the opportunity to chat with Philippe Cousteau, founder of EarthEcho, to see how EarthEcho has worked to inspire youth to work towards a more sustainable future.
EarthEcho International has a strong lineage of caring for and working towards a sustainable future. Tell us how the organization got started and what you’ve accomplished thus far.
I established EarthEcho International as a youth-focused nonprofit organization in 2005 with my sister, Alexandra, to carry on the legacy of our father Philippe Cousteau, Sr. My father believed in “a world where every single child can breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and walk on green grass under a blue sky.” That has been a guiding principle for EarthEcho since its inception. Today, EarthEcho’s mission is to build a global youth movement to protect and restore what my grandfather called our “ocean planet.”
Our EarthEcho team and network of youth leaders play a critical role in creating lifelong environmental stewards who drive positive change across the globe. Throughout our 15 years of diverse programming, we have worked with over 2 million people in 146 countries and launched over 24,000 conservation projects as a result of EarthEcho’s youth engagement and environmental education programs.
EarthEcho International utilizes 21st-century tools and interactive resources to equip youth with the tools necessary to identify and solve environmental challenges within their own communities. Tell us more about these resources and how teachers and students have been able to use them.
For EarthEcho it is really about providing original content, immersive experiences, and trusted resources free of charge for youth to access directly and for the teachers and mentors who work with young people daily. CourseArc provides a platform for our newest offering, the EarthEcho Academy, but that resource is built using assets developed through EarthEcho’s other key programs that provide opportunities for engagement all year long.
Chatting with NOAA’s Steve Giordano during a water expedition exploring dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay.
EarthEcho Water Challenge just kicked off the 2021 water monitoring season and we are proud to be the facilitators of this civic science program that engages youth across 100+ countries annually. Through the EarthEcho Water Challenge young people and community members worldwide connect with and protect their local waterways.
Now in its second year, the OurEcho Challenge is a STEM competition that empowers U.S. middle school students (grades 5 – 9) to take a closer look at biodiversity in their communities. Students identify threats to local biodiversity and then propose solutions to help preserve, protect, or repair those natural resources. April 22nd, Earth Day, is the deadline for students to submit their ideas and the top three teams will be awarded grants to turn their projects into a reality!
Your organization also serves as a source of inspiration and a complement to environmental and sustainable education across the globe. How many educators and students do you reach?
Annually, EarthEcho reaches thousands of classrooms through teacher professional development, live virtual learning, engaged civic science in the community, and peer-to-peer collaborative learning. In 2021, EarthEcho will engage hundreds of new teachers across the U.S. while building support among our incredible community of the hundreds of veteran teachers representing our past Leadership, Education, and Advisory Panel as well as our EarthEcho Expedition Fellows and Mentors. Through these incredible teachers and the power of virtual connections, EarthEcho was able to reach more than 350,000 students in 2019 and many more during the global pandemic in 2020.
While work with these teachers builds EarthEcho’s capacity to reach students, we also work directly with youth each year to activate authentic campaigns driven by young environmental leaders. Last year alone, nearly 500 young people connected with EarthEcho’s Youth Leadership programs and reached several thousand more community members through youth-led campaigns around protecting local waterways and protecting 30% of our world’s ocean by 2030.
How has your work with educators and schools changed since schools have shifted online due to the pandemic? How has your digital content helped during this crisis?
Much of EarthEcho’s strategy remained consistent throughout the pandemic but the shift to remote learning in schools has brought renewed interest from teachers to EarthEcho’s content. We have tried to be responsive to the needs of teachers who have students both in the classroom and at home during this time by providing our content on platforms, like YouTube, that are readily accessible to students learning remotely.
How has CourseArc played a role in your ability to support students and educators?
The EarthEcho Academy is our newest learning space developed using CourseArc to provide online courses for teacher professional learning. Our courses provide middle school teachers across the United States with fully remote, asynchronous environmental education modules for students featuring some of our most popular NGSS-aligned classroom resources like EarthEcho Expedition: Into the Dead Zone. Since its launch in January, the Academy has enrolled 60 middle school teachers. CourseArc gave our team the ability to create courses with our content and deliver these to teachers ready to use. Using CourseArc has allowed us to increase the number of teachers we reach by providing a user-friendly, asynchronous platform that allows educators to work at their own pace.
Close up of a crab during a water expedition.
How do you hope to continue to engage audiences with your digital resources?
CourseArc has provided us with the ability to organize our content and resources in ways that make those materials ready-to-use for teachers. Rather than provide a video that the teacher then needs to lead a discussion on or provide a quiz or other assessment, we can build those tools into the course for the teacher to use. We hope to build two additional courses for teachers and students this year to explore global issues like water scarcity and ocean acidification but are also excited to identify opportunities to build courses in additional languages, such as Spanish, in the near future.
EarthEcho also hopes to engage our youth audiences directly in 2022 by establishing Masterclass opportunities for youth environmental leaders built in collaboration with the incredible youth people who comprise EarthEcho’s Youth Leadership Council and Youth Action Network.
What advice would you give to other organizations seeking to develop online content?
Prioritize equity in developing online content. Beta test with your audience and be nimble in incorporating their feedback expeditiously. There is a massive amount of information and resources out in the digital world — waiting to access or build your audience is postponing the inevitable, so get out there and connect!
About Philippe Cousteau:
Philippe is a multi Emmy-nominated TV host, author, speaker, and social entrepreneur. He has hosted numerous TV programs for Discovery, BBC, CNN, Travel Channel and more. Currently, he is the host of the syndicated television show Xploration Awesome Planet, now in its sixth season. He and his wife, Ashlan, are producers and narrators of a new Virtual Reality ocean exploration experience Drop in the Ocean that premiered at Tribeca Immersive in 2019.
Recently, Philippe was the co-star with his wife, Ashlan, of Travel Channel’s award-winning series, Caribbean Pirate Treasure for three seasons. They also co-hosted the documentary, Nuclear Sharks, for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2016, which premiered as the #1 rated show across all cable programming.
He is an award-winning author of several books: Follow the Moon Home, Going Blue, and Make a Splash. The first installment of his new book series The Endangereds launched on HarperCollins in the fall of 2020. Philippe and his wife, Ashlan, are co-authors of Oceans for Dummies which came out in Feb 2021. Philippe is a sought-after speaker having keynoted events for the United Nations, Harvard University, USC, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and many more. In 2004, he founded EarthEcho International, a leading environmental education organization dedicated to inspiring youth to take action for a sustainable planet. With programs in North America, the Galapagos, Caribbean, Australia, and Europe, EarthEcho directly engages hundreds of thousands of youth each year.
He serves on the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund where he is a partner in their Natural Security campaign. He also serves the boards of Green 2.0 and the Environmental Media Association and is a member of the Ocean Unite Network. Philippe and his wife, fellow explorer, and TV host Ashlan Gorse-Cousteau reside in Los Angeles, California with their daughter Vivienne and rescue dog Kenai.