Student Voices

Check out the amazing projects and opportunities featuring students around the country working to keep our sea free of debris.

Working with Students Towards Sustainable Campuses

Taxonomy Term: 
NOAA Region: 
A student collecting debris on a rocky shore.
On Our Radar Choice: 
no

Eckerd College and the University of North Florida will foster long-term behavior change among undergraduate students to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Florida

Project Dates: September 2020 - February 2023

Who is involved?
With the support of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Eckerd College and the University of North Florida will reduce single-use plastic consumption and foster long-term pro-environmental behaviors among undergraduates by integrating education and outreach initiatives with Plastic Reduction Challenges. By reducing the consumption of single-use plastic, this project will also reduce the production of marine debris, especially in coastal areas.

What is the project and why is it important?
College students are typically away from home and making their own purchasing decisions for the first time. Encouraging behavioral changes, such as rejecting single-use plastics, during such a shift in lifestyle can lead to a lifetime of maintaining the habit. Eckerd College and the University of North Florida will use formal and informal education as well as outreach opportunities to raise awareness about marine debris on-campus and while at home, facilitate understanding of the connections between individual actions and impacts in the marine environment, and encourage behavior change. 

Students will participate in week-long Plastic Reduction Challenges, where they use an innovative smartphone app to log each use and refusal of single-use plastic, and receive real-time feedback on their behavior. This will lead to increased individual accountability and commitment to reducing plastic waste and marine debris. Eckerd College and the University of North Florida will use the data collected from the app, as well as student surveys, to further our understanding of single-use plastic consumption on university campuses.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Ranking: 
0
Fiscal Year: 
2020
Active Project?: 
yes
Special Event?: 
No
Funded Project Info: 
(Florida, $149,928) will reduce single-use plastic consumption among undergraduates at both Eckerd College and University of North Florida by increasing individual accountability and commitments to long-term sustainable behaviors. The project will implement an easy-to-use Plastic Reduction Challenge mobile application, as well as broader education and outreach initiatives, to foster sustained individual behavioral change that results in long-term and widespread reductions in plastic consumption.
Grantee: 
Eckerd College
Education Resource?: 
Education Portal Ranking: 
3
Teaser Text: 
Eckerd College and the University of North Florida will foster long-term behavior change among undergraduate students to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

Taking a Bite Out of Lunchroom Waste in Northeast Michigan

Taxonomy Term: 
NOAA Region: 
Hands holding out marine debris collected from a lake shoreline.
On Our Radar Choice: 
no

The Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative are leading "Food for Thought," a project engaging 500 youth in grades 3-12 in Northeast Michigan to reduce waste produced in school lunchrooms.

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Great Lakes

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2022

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative will lead efforts to engage 500 youth in Northeast Michigan. Working directly with teachers and the Michigan State University Extension, students will examine the waste they find in their communities and school, and then develop potential solutions to reduce waste and ultimately prevent marine debris.

What is the project and why is it important?
Waste from everyday activities can be a significant source of marine debris, whether at home or at school. School lunchrooms often use a large amount of single-use plastics, including lunch trays, plastic utensils, plastic bags, and straws, and litter on the school yard can be blown, swept, or washed into local waterways, the ocean, and Great Lakes. 

Through this project, the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative will engage 500 youth in grades 3-12 in Northeast Michigan in reducing waste produced in their schools. Teachers and their students will begin with a shoreline cleanup in which they will evaluate the types of trash collected. Students will also carry out a scientific investigation on the lifestyle choices people make that generate marine debris, including within their own school lunchrooms. They will record the waste produced, then investigate changes their school could make to reduce lunchroom waste. Students will learn about the impact each type of waste produced in their school has on the Great Lakes environment. They will then present their findings, including the solutions they propose, to their peers, teachers, administrators, and the school board. Through their investigations, youth will become Marine Debris Prevention Ambassadors, sharing information with their families, peers, and the community to encourage other marine debris prevention efforts.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Ranking: 
0
Fiscal Year: 
2020
Active Project?: 
yes
Special Event?: 
No
Funded Project Info: 
(Michigan, $50,000) will engage 500 youth from grades 3-12 to become Marine Debris Prevention Ambassadors and reduce waste produced in school lunchrooms. Teachers and their students will participate in shoreline cleanups, research and analyze their lunchroom waste, and present their findings and solutions to peers, teachers, administrators, and the school board.
Grantee: 
Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan
Education Resource?: 
Education Portal Ranking: 
4
Teaser Text: 
The Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative are leading "Food for Thought," a project engaging 500 youth in grades 3-12 in Northeast Michigan to reduce waste produced in school lunchrooms.

Reducing Plastic Use Among Commuters and CoastSmart Restaurants

Taxonomy Term: 
NOAA Region: 
A takeout container left on the roadside.
On Our Radar Choice: 
no

Salem Sound Coastwatch is working with high school interns to develop effective community-based social marketing messages and launch a “CoastSmart” restaurant campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastics. 

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2022

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Salem Sound Coastwatch, in partnership with Girls Inc., and Salem Public Schools, is developing projects for high school interns in Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts. These projects include a CoastSmart Restaurant Campaign that works with local restaurants by providing more reusable options in their takeout packaging, producing educational videos about composting, developing a single-use plastic reduction ad campaign, and creating an inventory of existing cigarette butt collection efforts to measure effectiveness. 

What is the project and why is it important?
As discovered nationwide and proven by data collected by Salem Sound Coastwatch over the years, restaurants and their customers are a large source of marine debris. The trash produced may include food wrappers, takeout containers, bottle caps and lids, straws and utensils, bottles and cans, bags, plates and cups, six-pack holders, miscellaneous packaging materials, and all micro-sized debris. Cigarette butts are also commonly found types of debris during cleanups.

Salem Sound Coastwatch and their partners are engaging a diverse population of youth in community-based social marketing research and service projects that address these marine debris issues in their communities. Project staff and high school students are working to reduce the amount of single-use plastics and cigarette butts that begin as street litter and end up on beaches and in the ocean. This project combines the best techniques from previously established programs and develops effectively tailored bilingual, Spanish and English, messaging for the unique commercial and residential populations of Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts. Partners recruited groups of high school interns in Salem and Lynn, who are executing service projects, presenting their projects’ progress, and engaging with their communities to help reduce marine debris. These efforts will include a CoastSmart Restaurant campaign, aimed at asking restaurants to commit to “green practices” such as providing more reusable or biodegradable options in their takeout packaging, composting, or improving their waste management.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Ranking: 
0
Fiscal Year: 
2020
Active Project?: 
yes
Special Event?: 
No
Funded Project Info: 
(Massachusetts, $136,846) will work with Girls Inc., and Salem Public Schools to recruit and work with groups of high school interns in Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts to execute service projects that approach the marine debris problem and the community’s reliance on single-use plastics. Students will work with the CoastSmart Restaurant Campaign to get restaurants to offer more sustainable products, while other students will produce a Composting 101 Video with restaurant owners and create a Plastic Reduction Advertisement Campaign focused on commuters.
Grantee: 
Salem Sound Coastwatch
Education Resource?: 
Education Portal Ranking: 
5
Teaser Text: 
Salem Sound Coastwatch is working with high school interns to develop effective community-based social marketing messages and launch a “CoastSmart” restaurant campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

Changing Littering Behavior through Student Leadership and Peer Mentorship

Taxonomy Term: 
NOAA Region: 
Students in a classroom.
On Our Radar Choice: 
no

The Alice Ferguson Foundation is expanding its current marine debris focused education programming to engage secondary students in Prince George’s County, Maryland around the issue of marine debris and litter prevention in their schools and communities.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: August 2018 - July 2021

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grant, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) will conduct a two-year pilot project that will engage 400 students and 16 teachers from eight schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland and within the Anacostia River watershed. A strong focus will be on schools that are part of the County’s Transforming Communities Initiative, an effort to boost quality of life in targeted neighborhoods by improving economic, health, public safety and educational outcomes.

What is the project and why is it important?
Alice Ferguson Foundation will build off an existing project working with 5th graders through the Trash Free Maryland Schools Program to develop and deliver its Watershed Leadership Program (WLP). Through multiple classroom visits, student-led action projects, and a peer-to-peer mentorship program with local elementary school students, the WLP will reduce littering behavior by helping Prince George’s County students connect to and understand their local watershed, recognize the impacts of their waste and litter, and empower them to be student leaders on marine debris prevention.

Utilizing community-based social marketing techniques, the project will focus on secondary school students (6th-12th grade) as its target audience, especially Latino students, with a strong emphasis on the involvement of the students in the development of resources, strategies and action projects.These students will implement eight student-led action projects and lead eight schoolyard cleanups. As part of the preparation for the WLP, staff will translate AFF’s proven Trash Free Schools guidebook into Spanish, with the goal of including additional audiences. The project leaders will also create and refine workforce development activities to increase students’ knowledge and skills to prepare them for environmentally-focused careers.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Ranking: 
0
Fiscal Year: 
2018
Active Project?: 
yes
Special Event?: 
No
Funded Project Info: 
($50,000) will build on successes in a previous community-based social marketing campaigns to reduce littering behaviors among high school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland. As part of the project, students will lead community cleanups, pilot their own litter prevention strategies, and mentor younger students.
Grantee: 
Alice Ferguson Foundation Inc.
Education Resource?: 
Education Portal Ranking: 
6
Teaser Text: 
The Alice Ferguson Foundation is expanding its current marine debris focused education programming to engage secondary students in Prince George’s County, Maryland, around the issue of marine debris and litter prevention in their schools and communities.

Ohio Marine Debris Art Challenge

NOAA Region: 
Short Title: 
Clean Future Challenge
Various marine debris items on a beach.
On Our Radar Choice: 
no

Even during this challenging time when many are at home, our waste can still become marine debris. We want your help to raise awareness about the global problem of marine debris, especially in the Great Lakes. We’re looking for original and inspiring art from students in coastal Ohio to help encourage others to be part of the marine debris solution.

Eligibility
All students in grades 6-12 from the Lake Erie region of Ohio enrolled in recognized public, private, and home schools are eligible to participate. Schools, including home schools, must be in compliance with federal and state civil rights and nondiscrimination statutes. We also encourage organizations and clubs that are not affiliated with schools to participate (e.g., Scouts, 4-H). Students may work individually or in a group of no more than 4 students with an adult in a leadership role. Each individual or group of students may only submit one entry. There is no limitation on the number of entries a teacher/adult, classroom, school, or organization may submit.

For a complete list of contest rules, download the Contest Rules & Information document, located under the "Resources" box.

Criteria
After learning about marine debris in the ocean and Great Lakes and how we all may be contributing with our trash, students will create marine debris artwork from repurposed trash, which will focus on Lake Erie wildlife! All entries must meet the requirements below:

  • There should be 1 to 4 students per entry; Groups should have no more than 4 students
  • Artwork must be made primarily of repurposed trash from the waste at home or school, such as clean plastic, metal, or paper. The exception to this rule would be the base the artwork stands on.
  • Art should focus on the theme of Lake Erie wildlife
  • Art must be less than 2ft x 2ft in size and able to stand on its own, if necessary
  • Be creative! Different types of artwork (e.g., sculpture, diorama, mural, likeness, mixed media) are all encouraged.
  • Any electrical elements should run off of battery and no hazardous materials should be used
  • Avoid any licensed characters, brand and product names, as well as licensed music in the artwork (i.e., hide product names on debris items)
  • Students and leaders need to submit:
    • One 750 word summary per group. The essay should focus on what they learned about marine debris, how they evaluated the waste they produced, and how they can personally make changes to the amount of waste they produce.
    • Entry Form
    • Picture(s) of the artwork
    • Student Releases for each student

Students are highly encouraged to check out the NOAA Marine Debris Program's website for information about marine debris, and teachers are encouraged to use the “Trash Tracker” curriculum as a resource (An Educator’s Guide to Marine Debris - pages 22-24). We’ve also provided a recorded presentation and alternative waste tracking worksheet for those that may be learning virtually.

Entries (entry form, essay, picture of artwork, and student releases) should be emailed to sarah.lowe@noaa.gov by 11:59pm April 15th, 2022.

If you have any questions, please contact either bixler.42@osu.edu or Sarah.Lowe@noaa.gov

Donating & Sponsoring Organizations

  • NOAA Marine Debris Program
  • Ohio Sea Grant
  • The Ohio State University F.T. Stone Laboratory
  • Ohio Congressional District 9 (Rep. Marcy Kaptur)
  • Cedar Point Amusement Park 
  • Lake Erie Charter Boat Association
  • Miller Ferry Boat Line

This contest was created in 2016 in partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Ohio Sea Grant/OSU Stone Laboratory, and Ohio Congressional District 9 (Rep. Marcy Kaptur).

Ranking: 
0
Active Project?: 
no
Special Event?: 
No
Education Portal Ranking: 
2
Teaser Text: 
Students from coastal Ohio are invited to participate in the annual marine debris challenge to bring awareness to the issue of marine debris in the Great Lakes.

Annual NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest and Calendar

Short Title: 
Art Contest
Artwork of a beach littered with marine debris and a sea turtle and other creatures being harmed by the debris.
On Our Radar Choice: 
no

The NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest is now closed! The contest will reopen in fall 2022. Check out the 2022 Marine Debris Calendar, now available for download!

Annual Marine Debris Program Art Contest Overview

The NOAA Marine Debris Program holds an annual art contest to reach K-8 students and help raise awareness about marine debris. Marine debris is a global issue and we believe that engaging our youth is an important part of addressing the problem. The resulting calendar, featuring the winning artwork, provides a daily reminder of how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of the ocean. Students are highly encouraged to check out resources on this website for information about marine debris.

Who is eligible to enter the contest?

All students in kindergarten through eighth grade from all U.S. states and territories in recognized public, private, and home schools are eligible to participate. Schools, including home schools, must be in compliance with federal and state civil rights and nondiscrimination statutes. Students may submit entries on their own or as part of a classroom, but must work individually.

Entry Requirements

Each entry must be composed of a piece of artwork and a description (on the entry form). All must meet the requirements below. A NOAA awards panel will collect all entries and select 13 winners to be featured in a marine debris calendar. Entries will be judged on the creativity, artistic presentation, and relevancy to the theme of:

  1. How marine debris impacts the ocean and the Great Lakes environment.
  2. What you are doing to help prevent marine debris.

Artwork & Description Requirements:

  1. One entry per student
  2. The entries must be on a single sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper, landscape.
  3. Use white, non-glossy paper; do not laminate.
  4. Any art medium may be used (e.g., colored pencils, crayons, paint), computer graphics will not be accepted. Artwork must be hand-drawn by the student.
  5. Artwork must be flat (e.g., no glued pieces or glitter) and able to be scanned.
  6. Avoid labeling debris items with any brand names in the artwork.
  7. A description of no more than 75 words must accompany the artwork (space provided on the entry form).
  8. Label each mail entry on the back in pencil (marker bleeds through the artwork) with student’s name, age, and grade, along with the teacher’s name, school name, address, and telephone number.
  9. If submitting your entry electronically, accepted file types are: JPEG, PNG, or TIFF. Make sure your files are high resolution (scanning is encouraged), not crooked, and are easy to see and/or read.

Entry Submission (Contest is now closed)

This year we are accepting entries by mail and electronically. There should be one entry form filled out per student. Please ensure that the entry form is filled out completely and legibly. All entries (entry form + artwork) must be submitted by mail (postmarked) or electronically no later than December 10, 2021.

If you have any questions, please email md.artcontest@noaa.gov.

Submitting Entries By Mail
Mail your entry (entry form + artwork) to:

Marine Debris Art Contest
NOAA Marine Debris Program
1305 East-West Highway,
SSMC4, 10th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Submitting Entries Electronically
Email your entry (entry form + artwork) to: md.artcontest@noaa.gov 

    • Attach the entry form
    • Attach the artwork as a JPEG, PNG, or TIFF 
    • Make sure your artwork is high resolution (scanning is encouraged), not crooked, and are easy to see and/or read
    • Please note: Our email system will not accept emails with attachments larger than 18MB. If you are submitting multiple entries via email, please number them, send them in individual emails, or reach out to confirm we have received all of your entries.

    2022 Art Contest Winners

    Congratulations to our 2022 NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest winners! The Marine Debris Program selected 13 pieces of artwork, and they are featured in our 2023 Marine Debris Calendar! Thank you to all the students who participated in this year's contest! We plan to announce the winners of the current art contest in spring 2022.

    The 2022 Marine Debris Calendar is available for download. We are unable to offer hard copies of the calendar at this time.

    Ranking: 
    0
    Active Project?: 
    no
    Special Event?: 
    No
    Education Portal Ranking: 
    1
    Teaser Text: 
    Our annual art contest for grades K-8, open each fall. Winners are selected for a Marine Debris Calendar!
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