A group of lined people up on the beach.

MDMAP Guide for Educators

Making a Marine Debris “MAP”: A Guide to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project for Educators

The NOAA Marine Debris Program created Making a Marine Debris “MAP”: A Guide to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project for Educators (Guide) as a resource for educators who are interested in implementing Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP) surveys with their students. MDMAP is a NOAA community science initiative that volunteers around the world use to survey and record the amount and types of marine debris on shorelines. This Guide provides instructions and tips for participating in MDMAP and planning, conducting, and following up on monitoring surveys with student groups.

MDMAP surveys are a great way to get students outside and onto the shoreline! You and your students will head to a local shoreline, search for debris in randomized sections, and record data you will contribute to a global database. While it is not required as a part of the MDMAP protocol, you can easily incorporate a full beach cleanup into your day. Check out the Introduction to MDMAP tutorial video to help visualize what your MDMAP experience can look like.

How do we get started?

The Monitoring Toolbox contains resources for conducting MDMAP surveys, including the Shoreline Survey Guide, from which this Guide for Educators is adapted. The more general Shoreline Survey Guide provides instructions for MDMAP volunteers of any background. The survey steps are all the same, but this Guide for Educators provides specific tips for working with students, including ideas for increasing student engagement and adapting the process for student groups as well as callouts of cross-curricular concepts and connections to disciplinary topics. It may be helpful to have a copy of the Shoreline Survey Guide at hand for reference when you are reviewing this Guide.

This Guide will walk you through the steps for conducting MDMAP surveys, linked below. If you are looking for supplemental materials or curricula to facilitate learning about marine debris with your students, you can find resources on the NOAA Marine Debris Program website.

People placing red flags on a beach.

Learn more about how, where, and why to participate in MDMAP, including the benefits to students and standards alignment for MDMAP activities.

Two people in a parking lot stretching a long string.

Here are a few things you will need to do as you prepare to take your students on an MDMAP survey.

A group of people set up a survey on a beach.

Before you head out for your surveys, be sure you review safety information and randomly select the transects you will be surveying.

Two students survey for debris among rocks and driftwood.

Steps to take during the shoreline survey, including tips for keeping students engaged throughout the process.

Large group of students on a grassy slope.

After you've completed your survey, there are many ways you can use the data you collected to support authentic student learning. 

A group of students and their teacher search for debris on a sandy beach.
The activities included in this Guide address a number of three-dimensional science and cross-curricular learning standards. We have summarized some of the standards alignment and learning objectives that can be met with MDMAP in the classroom.
Two people sort debris on a sandy beach.
The training video series introduces participants to MDMAP and how to conduct a survey. If you are interested in watching the MDMAP training videos with your students, we have compiled potential discussion questions for each video.

Two students and their teacher review a clipboard on a rocky beach.
To provide additional support for educators conducting MDMAP surveys with students, we have compiled printable directions and resources for the MDMAP protocols.

Making a Marine Debris “MAP”: A Guide to NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project for Educators came together through a highly collaborative process over the course of many months. The NOAA Marine Debris Program would like in particular to thank the following contributors to this effort: 

  • Tanya Torres, 2020-2022 California Sea Grant Extension Fellow with the NOAA Marine Debris Program 

  • Denise Harrington, 2022-2023 NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni Association Fellow

  • Dr. Kelsie Fowler, Science Education and Research Curriculum Partner | Vermilion Sea Institute

Last updated Thu, 04/18/2024 - 11:09 am EDT