Changing Littering Behavior through Student Leadership and Peer Mentorship

Students in a classroom.
Students in Prince George's County, MD learn about the watershed they are a part of (Photo Credit: Alice Ferguson Foundation)

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 2020

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.