Marine Debris Education Newsletter

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NOAA Marine Debris Program

Education Newsletter

March 1, 2021  •  A quarterly newsletter highlighting marine debris curriculum, events, and ideas.

“Being the people of this blue planet is our most

Profound privilege and power,

For if we be the ocean’s saviors,

Then it is surely ours.”

— Amanda Gorman,
National Youth Poet Laureate


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Find information about educational opportunities that are available throughout NOAA here.


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Dear Educators...

Artwork from 2019 art contest, joined hands with text reading "Together we can make a difference" decorated with images of healthy marine life.

Artwork by Mia C. (Grade 8, Texas).

Can you believe it’s been a year since virtual teaching started?!

We at the NOAA Marine Debris Program salute you for this full year of continuing to engage, inspire, and educate around the country. Things might not be so certain yet, but we’re going to try to keep up with you as your work keeps changing and evolving every day! Here are some ways our program, our partners, and our fellow NOAA offices have adapted right along with you:

  • Turtle Trash Collectors, an innovative program in North Carolina that provides hands-on marine debris education, went virtual with videos and interactive challenges.
  • Ocean Today, an interactive NOAA media installation available at 34 public locations, such as aquariums and science centers, took a “deeper dive” into topics like marine debris with their monthly Full Moon Webinar series.
  • Here at the Marine Debris Program, we had some fun exploring “Marine Debris Trivia” inspired by questions received from the public.
  • The Winged Ambassadors activity package, which explores ocean literacy and plastic pollution through albatross behavior, adapted all of their materials for distance learning, including fillable PDF worksheets, a virtual bolus dissection, and extensive teacher tips. The full resource is available free online courtesy of Oikonos, in partnership with NOAA’s Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Educators everywhere, we admire you! We’re going to keep working hard to support your communities by sharing and celebrating marine debris resources.

Plus: Introducing Our Education Specialist 

Hello educators everywhere! My name is Alexandria Brake, and I am excited and honored to be joining the Marine Debris Program. I am a former middle school teacher with a passion for the environment and inspiring others to care for our world. I'm here to help you with our educational content and programming, from our annual art contest to our library of curricular resources and materials (and beyond). I'm looking forward to supporting this incredible community!


Alexandria Brake, Education Specialist

Students in Ohio - Get Ready for the Ohio Marine Debris Art Challenge!

Bottle caps, straws, cigarette butts, and other debris removed from the shoreline of Lake Erie in Ohio.

Bottle caps, straws, cigarette butts, and other debris removed from the shoreline of Lake Erie in Ohio (Photo: NOAA).

Even during this challenging time when many are at home, our waste can still become marine debris. For those living in coastal Ohio, lost waste can end up in Lake Erie. In order to help raise awareness of the issue, we’re excited to be offering the Ohio Marine Debris Art Challenge for students in grades 6-12 in coastal Ohio!

Learn more

Reducing Waste by Building Habits at Home

A set of reusable bamboo utensils.

One easy way to reduce waste is to skip the plastic utensils and napkins when ordering take out or delivery, whether you are eating at home or on the go (Photo: NOAA).

Practicing waste reduction at home builds a strong foundation for reducing waste in our everyday lives, and reducing our personal waste is an important part of preventing potential marine debris. From bringing lunches with reusable cutlery to reducing the use of single-use coffee pods or cups, there are many ways you can get started, wherever you're teaching or learning.

Learn more

Calling All Marine Debris Engineers!

Plastic bottle debris recovered from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

What if these bottles had a different future? Turn them into a seaworthy vessel for the 2021 Recycle Regatta (Photo: NOAA).

The Recycle Regatta is a fun, hands-on competition that students can participate in from the safety of their own home. Students will build small-scale, uncrewed, model sailboats, test them, and calculate their speed. Challenge other students from around the world as you do your part to reduce marine debris by repurposing and recycling. Prizes will be awarded to the winners! This event is sponsored by New England Science & Sailing (NESS)Educational Passages, and the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA).

Learn more

Celebrating Women and Girls in Marine Debris

Screenshot of one of the Marina Club's videos covering the topic of marine debris.

The Marina Club is working to share important information about marine debris with their peers through short videos (Photo: NOAA).

While the celebration of International Women and Girls in Science Day may have been on February 11, we're looking forward to celebrating women and girls throughout the year. Check out this feature by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation that highlights the work of the Marina Club and its faculty moderator, Mara Morales García, of Esculea Especializada en Ciencias, Matematica y Tecnologia (CIMATEC), a specialized school in science, mathematics, and technology in Puerto Rico. These unstoppable young ladies of science are creating a series of informational videos to spread the word about marine debris to their peers at CIMATEC and nationwide. 

Learn more

It's Never Too Soon to Plan for Earth Day!

Two marine debris educators present information on video.

Explore marine debris topics, such as the garbage patch, right from home (Photo: NOAA).

This spring, inspire change on marine debris from home or the classroom. The NOAA Marine Debris Program has free activities, videos, and more available online. On the website, there is a dedicated section with resources and activities for all ages, where you can view activity books and browse lesson plans. Get started and download an activity today.

Learn more

Featured Craft: Crayon Craziness

A pile of broken crayons in various colors.

Does this look familiar? Old, broken crayons can be a frustrating mess, but there's a solution to give them a new life! (Photo: Elissa Capelle Vaughn).

Whether in the classroom or at home, we've all experienced the inevitable pile (or drawer, or plastic baggie) of broken crayon ends. The brand-new box that was once a gleaming symbol of creativity and potential eventually degrades into a handful of half-inch chunks. No one wants to use them, but they can't be recycled. What are you to do but toss them into the trash?

We at the Marine Debris Program have a solution for you! To keep those broken crayon pieces from filling up landfills (or ending up as schoolyard litter), try one of these upcycling projects to give them a whole new life. 

Crayons to Candles

Clockwise from top-left. 1, red crayon pieces. 2, grated crayon and white candle wax. Step 3, melted wax poured in votive. Step 4, lit candle.

This craft is lit! Here are the four steps to a crayon candle: Start with your crayon pieces, grate them into the smallest possible pieces and mix with white candle wax, melt and pour into votive, and presto! Light your candle safely (Photo: NOAA).

Supplies Needed: 

  • Broken crayons
  • Old white candle or tea light (Note: You can use crayons alone, but the candle won't burn as well)
  • Candle wick
  • Small jars or votives
  • Optional: Essential oils to add fragrance


  1. Peel off and recycle any paper wrappings on your crayons. 
  2. Chop or grate the crayons and candle into the smallest pieces possible. 
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt a mixture of crayon and candle wax for 30-second intervals, stirring between each. 
  4. While your wax is melting, prepare your container by placing the wick into the center, holding it straight with popsicle sticks or pencils across the top. 
  5. Carefully pour the melted wax into your container, adding any fragrance.
  6. Allow the candle to set completely before using. This will take several hours. 
  7. Once set, trim the wick down to 1/4-inch above the candle's surface. 

Note: This activity should only be conducted with adult supervision. Exercise caution when using the stove or microwave, handling hot wax, or lighting your candle.

Tie-Dye Crayons

Collage: Left, final tie-dye crayon; Top-Right, broken crayons in muffin tin; Middle-Right, melted crayons; Bottom-Right, cooled tie-dye crayons.

Voila! Tie-Dye Crayons: Step 1 (top-right), broken pieces in muffin tin. Step 2 (middle-right), crayons melted completely. Step 3 (bottom-right), let cool and pop out of tins. Step 4 (left), draw your heart out! (Photo: NOAA).

Supplies Needed: 

  • Broken crayons in different colors
  • Muffin tin


  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel and recycle the paper wrapping of your crayons.
  3. Ensure crayons are broken into small pieces, around 1/2-inch or smaller.
  4. One color at a time, layer a few crayon pieces into each space of the muffin tin. Aim for 2-3 colors each. (The more pieces you add, the thicker the new crayons will be.)
  5.  Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, or until the crayons have melted completely.
  6. Carefully remove the muffin tin from the oven. Allow to cool on a counter or table, then put them in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
  7. Once cooled, remove the crayons from the tin by gently tapping the tin out onto a hard surface. 

Note: This activity should only be conducted with adult supervision. Make sure you are using oven mitts to remove your new crayons, and avoid touching any hot surfaces. 

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