Watershed Approach in Erie, Pennsylvania, to Rid the Seas of Marine Debris
Students cleaning up debris on a beach.
Students from Erie, PA, participating in a beach cleanup. (Photo Credit: PA Sea Grant)
Teachers around a watershed floor mat.
Teachers learning about watersheds and how marine debris travels. (Photo Credit: PA Sea Grant)

The School District of the City of Erie is partnering with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to lead a district-wide education and outreach effort with students, teachers, and the community to reduce land-based marine debris by combining curriculum with stewardship.

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

Region: Great Lakes

Project Dates: August 2016 - July 2017

Who is involved?
The School District of the City of Erie, PA, with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, is working with Pennsylvania Sea Grant, the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful to provide marine debris training materials to local teachers.

What is the project and why is it important?
Marine debris, and especially consumer debris, is a big issue in the Great Lakes region. The ultimate solution to this problem is to prevent consumer items from becoming debris in the first place. The School District of the City of Erie, Pennsylvania, is working along this solution strategy by leading education and outreach efforts reaching students, teachers, and the community of Erie.

Using existing teacher training materials, the school district is incorporating marine debris education and stewardship activities into existing BELONG (Becoming Empowered by Living Our Natural Gifts) curriculum. Through this program, approximately 1,800 fourth and fifth graders from 12 elementary schools in the district are learning what constitutes marine debris, its sources and impacts on natural habitats, and how it travels through a watershed. To relate that to their own experiences, they are also discovering what type of trash is generated in their schools and neighborhoods and how it contributes to marine debris. Students are then taking action by developing ways to reduce the amount of trash produced and educating the surrounding communities about marine debris to change behavior in a positive way.

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Teachers around a watershed floor mat.
Teachers learning about watersheds and how marine debris travels. (Photo Credit: PA Sea Grant)