From Shore to State House

A group of students on a beach.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program teamed up with the University of Hartford to develop an open source, replicable, college-level service learning course to improve knowledge, lead outreach, inform policy, and inspire change on the issue of marine debris.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: August 2015 - July 2016

Who is involved?
The University of Hartford, with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, designed and piloted a college course to introduce students to the issue of marine debris, guide them in the process of collecting debris and analyzing its life cycle, and challenge them to use this information to design and assess policy alternatives and present these alternatives to their state legislators. In implementing this project, the University of Hartford also worked with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on beach cleanup activities and the Environmental Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly to facilitate student presentations to state legislators.

What is the project and why is it important?
From Shore to State House aimed to engage and educate students through a college-level marine debris course, drive behavior change to prevent marine debris, and inspire students to develop policy alternatives and discuss them with state legislators. Through this project, the University of Hartford developed a curriculum, piloted the project with students, and then finalized the curriculum with lessons learned from the pilot. The curriculum was then widely distributed to college-level educators through a project website, a peer-reviewed publication, and a conference presentation.

This college-level course included both hands-on and classroom components. The students conducted four beach cleanups and marine debris accumulation surveys using the methodology outlined in the NOAA Marine Debris Shoreline Survey Field Guide. The collected debris was then sorted, photographed, and catalogued on a website created for the course. The overall data was analyzed for trends and other information for students to use in their final presentation. In addition, students researched various marine debris policies that have been proposed and implemented around the country and developed reports on these policies. The course culminated with a presentation to state legislators on marine debris littering local beaches, its impacts, and proposed policies to address this issue. The students’ knowledge of marine debris and environmental attitudes were assessed before and after the course to determine how the course affected students’ understanding and attitudes about marine debris.