From Shore to State House
A group of students on a beach.
Students participate in a beach cleanup as part of the From Shore to State House college course. (Photo Credit: Katharine Owens, University of Hartford)

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is teaming 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, is designing and piloting a college course that will 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 is also working 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 aims 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 is developing a curriculum, piloting the project with students, and then finalizing the curriculum with lessons learned from the pilot. The curriculum is then being widely distributed to college-level educators through a project website, a peer-reviewed publication, and a conference presentation.

This college-level course includes both hands-on and classroom components. The students conduct four beach cleanups and marine debris accumulation surveys using the methodology outlined in the NOAA Marine Debris Shoreline Survey Field Guide. The collected debris is then sorted, photographed, and catalogued on a website created for the course. The overall data is analyzed for trends and other information for students to use in their final presentation. In addition, students research various marine debris policies that have been proposed and implemented around the country and develop reports on these policies. The course culminates 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 are assessed before and after the course to determine how the course affects students’ understanding and attitudes about marine debris.

For more information on this project, check out the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.