Marine Debris Education Newsletter

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NOAA Marine Debris Program

Education Newsletter

May 20, 2021  •  A quarterly newsletter highlighting marine debris curriculum, events, and ideas.

You could start now, and spend another forty years learning about the sea without running out of new things to know.

- Peter Benchley

Student Opportunities

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

On Our Virtual Calendar

June: 30 Days of the Ocean! New themes every week.

June 8: World Ocean Day

June 8-10: Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021

June 16: World Sea Turtle Day

July: Habitat Month

July: Plastic-Free July

July 1-7: Clean Beaches Week

July 18-24: Latino Conservation Week

August 6-8: Get Into Your Sanctuary Weekend

August 9-14: Shark Week


What's Happening Near You?

Learn more about marine debris in your region by clicking a link below. 

Great Lakes




Gulf of Mexico

Pacific Islands

Pacific Northwest






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Dear Educators...

Student artwork featuring a girl looking out at the clean ocean, while the scene's reflection is a beach covered in debris.

Artwork by Anna J. (Grade 8, Florida).

Summer is nearly here! 

To those formal educators who will be enjoying a summer off, get ready to kick up your heels and relax! And informal educators, I salute you as you gear up for an exciting summer of fun! No matter how you'll be spending your time this summer, be sure to keep it debris-free with these tips from the Marine Debris Program. 

And if you're finishing up the school year and looking for engaging lesson plans to finish strong, why not incorporate some citizen science into your curriculum? Check out our recent blog posts in this newsletter to learn more about this exciting way to blend science and civic action. Plus, here are a few materials that use student-collected citizen science data to practice disciplinary learning: 

We've also been cooking up some exciting updates and can't wait to share them all with you! Stay up-to-date on the Marine Debris Program's latest posts and publications by subscribing with the links at the bottom of this newsletter. 


Alexandria Brake, Education Specialist

Using Citizen Science to Understand Marine Debris

Milk jugs holding collected cigarette butts.

Surfrider volunteers pick up an average of 6,500 butts at every two-hour cleanup event (Photo: Surfrider San Francisco).

Spring is here! As the temperatures increase and weather improves, many of us are drawn to the outdoors. But what if your trip to the beach could be more than just an enjoyable day? What if you could do scientific research at the same time? 

Learn more

Dive into Citizen Science to Tackle Marine Debris

A woman holding a white plastic lid stands on a beach next to a man writing on a clipboard.

A shoreline survey team on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, records a plastic lid on their transect survey datasheet (Photo: NOAA).

One of the best things about citizen science is the opportunity to get involved with your local community while making a difference on a broad scale. There are so many impactful projects you can take part in as a citizen scientist, whether you are looking for a long-term commitment to keep a local shoreline clean or want to make a positive impact when doing things you love. Check out these ways to get started.

Learn more

Take a Trash Trip with this New Video from Ocean Today

Ocean Today host Symone holding a reusable bag and trash-grabber on a pier in Baltimore, MD.

Follow Ocean Today host Symone Barkley as she goes for a stroll through her neighborhood, using the Marine Debris Tracker App to log and collect trash along the way (Photo: Ocean Today).

Check out NOAA's Trash Trip with the Marine Debris Tracker App, a five-minute video guiding users—including high school students and teachers—through the processes of safely collecting, logging, and tracking trash data using the app. In tracking and submitting trash data, scientists gain a better picture of marine debris issues, and citizens contribute to their community by helping to keep it clean and reducing the amount of trash that ends up in the waterways. 

Learn more

Now Published: 2020 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report

Cover image of Fiscal Year 2020 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report

Explore the amazing education initiatives across NOAA in the Fiscal Year 2020 Education Accomplishments Report (Photo: NOAA Office of Education).

The Marine Debris Program celebrated a number of accomplishments last year, now shared in the NOAA Education Accomplishments Report! In a special 50th anniversary edition, the 2020 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report highlights the important role that education has played in meeting NOAA’s mission throughout the decades. In addition to celebrating long-term accomplishments, the report explores the many ways in which NOAA Education adapted to the important challenges presented throughout 2020. 

Learn more

Apply Now to Become an Ocean Guardian School

Ocean Guardian School banner logo.

Does your school have what it takes to help protect the ocean for the future? Promote ocean and watershed conservation at your school or in your local community by becoming an Ocean Guardian School (Photo: NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries).

The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Ocean Guardian School program funds projects focused on a current issue(s) affecting local watersheds and/or the ocean while promoting best environmental practices. Through a school- or community-based project, schools work to make a difference in the health and protection of their local watersheds, ocean, and/or special ocean areas like national marine sanctuaries.

Dive into the Marine Debris Program's Protect Our Ocean Activity Book to learn more about how marine debris can impact national marine sanctuaries. Then head to the Ocean Guardian School program page to explore funding opportunities and eligibility requirements.

Learn more

Marine Debris Projects Near You

Map of the United States, highlighting the regions of the Marine Debris Program.

In this new section below, check out some features from our education projects around the country.

Hurricane Debris Prevention and Preparedness in Puerto Rico: A Girls in Sciences Project

A collapsed structure on an ocean beach shoreline.

Beach erosion on the Rincón Municipality, western Puerto Rico, was aggravated with the storm surge associated with Hurricane Maria, resulting in collapsed structures (Photo: NOAA).

Club Marina is a group of high school females interested in environmental science in Puerto Rico who are committed to protecting the environment. In an effort to educate and raise awareness about the dangers of marine debris, they’ve been hard at work creating videos about hurricanes and debris in Puerto Rico. In this series of Spanish videos, viewers have the opportunity to understand more about preventing marine debris, hurricane preparedness, and debris management.

Learn more

In the Great Lakes - Food for Thought: Taking A Bite Out of Lunchroom Waste

Lake Huron marine debris.

Marine debris found on the shores of Lake Huron (Photo: Rick Houchin Photography).

Pizza or PB&J? Apple or orange? School cafeterias offer students daily lunch choices, but school-provided meals can generate serious waste, including single-use plastic utensils and plastic foam trays. Lunchroom decisions affect students daily, and the waste from single-use items will affect them for years if they become marine debris. How can we reduce this waste? By empowering students to think critically about their trash and use creativity to design solutions.

Learn more

In the Southeast - Research Supports the Power of Student Voices

Three figures holding hands amid marine debris, with text reading "Together we'll make the Ocean better."

Artwork by Xhian R. (Grade 2, US Virgin Islands).

A new study published by North Carolina State University  found that, on average, voters and local leaders showed greater concern about plastic and other garbage in the ocean after watching kids’ presentations. Learn more about this effort, led by Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Jenna Hartley, to assess the change-making impacts of 2,500 North Carolina 4th and 5th graders working to make the sea free of debris.

Want to join the movement? Check out this webinar hosted by Monitor National Marine Sanctuary to learn more about the research and curriculum supporting it.

Learn more

In California - Preventing Marine Debris One Cool Earth Strategy at a Time

Students sorting trash for a waste audit.

Students at Lange Elementary participated in a campus wide trash clean up and learned about how litter becomes marine debris (Photo: One Cool Earth).

Students, teachers, and school administrators all have their own parts to play in the vision of One Cool Earth’s Earth Genius marine debris education program in San Luis Obispo, California. This unique educational program partners with schools to incorporate marine debris education, practices, and principles throughout public school systems, from classrooms and cafeterias to school facilities and administration.

Learn more

There's Always More to Explore

Two marine debris educators present information on video.

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

Keep inspiring 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: Let's Hit the Beach!

A coffee cup found on the beach at the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Marine debris can ruin anyone's day at the beach. Keep the seaside blues away with these upcycled beach toys (Photo: NOAA).

Get ready for some fun in the sun! For many of us, summer weather mean trips to the beach and days spent lounging in the sand. Displays of bright plastic toys can be awfully tempting, but you can have just as much fun with toys from repurposed materials. Dive into the craft below to put together your own set of upcycled beach toys!

Note: As you plan your summer outings, be mindful of the changing landscape of safety regulations in your area. Please observe all local requirements.

Beach Toys - Why Buy?

A repurposed mesh produce bag full of upcycled beach toys from plastic containers.

Make a splash at the beach by repurposing materials that might otherwise get trashed into toys that are original AND fun (Photo: NOAA).

Supplies Needed: 

  • Clean, empty plastic containers 
  • Craft paint (optional)
  • Produce bag
  • Duct tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Ribbon or string


  1. Collect your containers. Just about any container will work! Keep an eye out for different shapes and sizes to keep the fun and exploration going all day long. 
  2. If you choose, you can paint or otherwise decorate your containers!
  3. Cover the label of your produce bag with a piece of duct tape. 
  4. Using permanent marker, write the name of whoever will be using the beach toys. 
  5. Weave a piece of ribbon or string through the mesh holes in the bag, tying at the top to make a handle. 
  6. Hit the beach! 
  7. After a day of fun in the sun, remember to bring your toys home and store them securely.

Bonus: Stress-Free, Waste-Free Storage

A phone and set of keys safely inside an empty jar.

Have you gotten all packed up and ready to leave the beach, only to realize you've buried your car keys somewhere in the sand? Keep all your valuables safe, dry, and easy to find with this trick (Photo: NOAA).

Repurpose clean, empty jars to keep your phone, keys, or other valuables safe, dry, and sand-free. No assembly required! 

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