A plastic water bottle buried in a sand dune.

Empowering Students to Prevent Marine Debris in the Long Island Sound Watershed

The Connecticut Audubon Society is working with 14 schools in the Long Island Sound watershed to assess the most prevalent types of marine debris in local waterways and implement prevention methods using student-designed solutions.

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: September 2023 - August 2024

Who is involved?

With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the Connecticut Audubon Society is engaging Connecticut elementary and middle school students, their teachers, and their communities in environmental education that will empower them to prevent plastic waste and other debris from entering local waterways and the Long Island Sound. By sharing information across both inland and coastal communities, students will discover that marine debris can be generated and prevented at all points in the watershed and learn that they are part of a broader, regional effort to protect local environments from marine debris pollution.

What is the project and why is it important?

According to Save the Sound Coastal Cleanup data, plastic food packaging waste (e.g., wrappers, single-use water bottles, six-pack rings, etc.) is consistently found to be one of the top ten items collected during coastal cleanups in Long Island Sound. Many of these items are found on elementary and middle school campuses.

In order to prevent this type of marine debris and empower students to take action, Connecticut Audubon Society educators will conduct a virtual professional development program for nearly 50 local educators that is focused on the basics of watershed ecology and marine debris. Project partners will then implement an in-classroom education program for 14 schools within six school systems, reaching approximately 1,600 students. To supplement the classroom education, each of the participating schools will visit their closest accessible waterway to conduct marine debris cleanups and inventory the items collected, primarily plastic food packaging waste.

Increased education will empower students and teachers to take action against marine debris found on their campuses. Students will analyze the results of their cleanup data and develop a solution that will encourage and facilitate the necessary behavior changes to prevent top debris types from entering the local waterways. Potential student-designed solutions may include, but are not limited to, installing water bottle filling stations on campus, providing reusable food packaging items for students (e.g., water bottles or lunch bags), or implementing additional campus waste and recycling receptacles. As part of the solution to prevent marine debris, students will engage in an educational campaign within their school and possibly their larger community. The long-term goal of this project is to create lasting behavior change in Connecticut students, teachers, and communities that will result in less plastic debris entering the local waterways.


Last updated Wed, 06/12/2024 - 06:17 pm EDT