Project SORT: Hands on Marine Debris Education in the Southeast

GA students marine debris survey and cleanup.
The University of Georgia Marine Extension Service (UGA MAREX) partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to use student marine debris surveys to encourage environmental stewardship.

Project Dates: August 2013 - July 2014

What’s the project?
Project SORT is a highly interactive and engaging program that aims to prevent marine debris from entering the ocean in the U.S. Southeast by educating a new generation of environmental stewards. The UGA MAREX-led project takes a three-tiered outreach and education approach by leading teachers in curriculum and activity development, engaging middle and high school students in marine debris classroom activities, surveys and cleanups, and providing teachers an opportunity to integrate the activities into classrooms. Project SORT also placed marine debris exhibits at public learning centers throughout Georgia. Here are some highlights from the project: Student Marine Debris Surveys – Project leads surpassed their goal by completing marine debris activities, including shoreline debris monitoring and cleanups on Skidaway Island with over 350 students since August 2013. This stewardship activity provides the students field experience and gives them a first-hand view of the marine debris problem. Marine Debris Column Exhibits – Project SORT unveiled clear columns containing marine debris at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, and Tybee Island Marine Science Center. The columns contain local debris and represent the different plastics found throughout our ocean’s water column. Marine Debris Teacher Workshop – Twenty educators from Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina will arrive in Savannah in July 2014 to attend a four-day workshop filled with presentations, learning and discussion sessions, and trainings. These individuals will be able to use what they learn in formal and informal classroom lessons back home.

Who is involved?
The UGA MAREX is leading efforts in partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program as part of the Prevention through Education and Outreach funding opportunity. Project SORT has the capacity to serve large numbers of educators, students, and visitors to Georgia’s learning centers. In addition to the educational outreach portions of the program, the development of the marine debris column exhibits at high impact public institutions will extend Project SORT’s reach to an estimated 155,000 people.

What’s something unique about the project?
Project SORT educators are measuring how much the students learned about marine debris over the course of the program through pre and post activity assessments. For example - before starting activities, the students are asked to close their eyes and raise their hands in response to a series of multiple-choice questions about marine debris. The same test is given after an introductory lesson.