Marine Debris Education Newsletter

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NOAA Marine Debris Program

Education Newsletter

November 18, 2021  •  A quarterly newsletter highlighting marine debris lessons, events, and ideas.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." 

– Jacques Cousteau

On Our Virtual Calendar

November: National Native American Heritage Month

November 25: Thanksgiving

December 5: International Volunteer Day

December 6-10: Corals Week

December 10: Annual NOA A Marine Debris Program Art Contest Closes! 

December 13: Planet Stewards Book Club - Discussing The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

January 1: New Year's Day

January 5: Bird Day

January 10: Planet Stewards Book Club - Discussing Sustainable, by Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher

January 17: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

February: Black History Month

February 2: World Wetlands Day

February 7: Planet Stewards Book Club - Discussing Our Changing Menu, by Michael Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle Eiseman

February 11: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Student Opportunities

Find information about educational opportunities that are available throughout NOAA.

Here are a few on our radar:

NOAA Marine Debris Program Art ContestCloses December 10

Margaret A. Davidson Graduate FellowshipCloses December 10

Dr. Nancy Foster ScholarshipCloses December 14

- José E. Serrano Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions  (EPP/MSI) Undergraduate ScholarshipCloses January 31

- Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate ScholarshipCloses January 31

John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship ProgramCloses February 18

Educator Opportunities

Find information about educational opportunities that are available throughout NOAA.

Here are a few on our radar:

NOAA-Supported DataStreme Ocean Program: Opens mid-November

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education GrantsCompetition closes December 6

Pacific Northwest B-WET: Funding opportunity closes February 4

- Chesapeake B-WET: Funding opportunity closes March 3

What's Happening Near You?

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

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Gulf of Mexico

Pacific Islands

Pacific Northwest





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Dear Educators...

Artwork of an octopus rewriting a "Thank You" plastic bag to "No thank you."

Artwork by 2020 Art Contest Winner Ava E. (Grade 6, California).

Thank you for all that you do! 

In this season of giving thanks, we at the NOAA Marine Debris Program would like to share our appreciation for the hardworking educators around the world supporting marine debris efforts in their classrooms. An additional thank you to those educators who joined our session all about project-based learning at this year’s North American Association of Environmental Education virtual conference

Not only is it the season of gratitude, but it’s also the season of the annual NOAA Marine Debris Program art contest! The Marine Debris Program hosts this contest each year to reach Kindergarten through 8th grade students and to raise awareness about marine debris. This year, we’re accepting submissions electronically as well as by mail, due by  December 10. Winners will be featured in a 2023 marine debris calendar! You can find out more about this exciting opportunity on our website. We’re looking forward to seeing all of your submissions! 


Alexandria Brake, Education Specialist

Now Open: The Annual NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest!

Artwork of the sea floor reading "Keep the Sea Free of Debris."

Artwork by Kelsen M. (Grade 5, Georgia).

Are you a student or teacher who’s passionate about marine debris? Then get your art supplies ready, because this year’s NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest is officially open! Students in grades K-8 from the United States and U.S. territories can submit their artwork now through December 10th. Winning artwork will be featured in our 2023 Marine Debris Calendar!

Learn more

2022 Marine Debris Calendar Is Now Available!

Student artwork features sea creatures swimming through a coral reef away from a derelict net, accompanied by a dolphin filled with marine debris.

Download the 2022 Marine Debris Calendar from our website now! (Cover art by Jeewoo S., Grade 8, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.)

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce that our 2022 Marine Debris Calendar is now available for download! This year’s calendar features artwork from thirteen students in kindergarten through eighth grade from eight states and two U.S. territories, all winners of the “Keep the Sea Free of Debris” art contest.

Learn more

Resource Highlight: Winged Ambassadors Soars to New Heights Online

A Laysan Albatross chick rests on a small derelict fishing net.

Unfortunately, albatross chicks like this one can often ingest plastic, mistaking it for food (Credit: NOAA).

Prior to leaving the nest, albatross chicks regurgitate a mass of indigestible material called a bolus. Boluses provide clues as to the types of food and trash eaten by albatross parents at sea. Lesson four of the classroom activity package Winged Ambassadors - Ocean Literacy through the Eyes of an Albatross brings the investigation of a bolus to life. In this newly updated lesson, students engage in a fully interactive digital bolus dissection, where they can measure, sort, and identify objects ingested by a Laysan albatross. It’s a great way to get students involved in hands-on learning about the impacts of marine debris on these majestic birds in the classroom or from home! Winged Ambassadors – Ocean Literacy through the Eyes of Albatross is available free online courtesy of NOAA, Oikonos, and other partners.

Learn more

Save the Date for the 7th International Marine Debris Conference

Poster with information on the 7th International marine Debris Conference: 18th-23rd September, 2022. Location: Busan, Republic of Korea.

Save the Date! The 7th International Marine Debris Conference will take place September 18-23, 2022, in Busan, Republic of Korea (Credit: United Nations Environment Programme).

The 7th International Marine Debris Conference (7IMDC) will take place September 18-23, 2022, in Busan, Republic of Korea. This conference is one of the world’s largest and longest-running events dedicated to the issue of marine debris. The 7IMDC is organized by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea (MOF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM), with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Learn more

Celebrate Spectacular with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

A large coral surrounded by colorful fish in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Happy birthday, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries! (Credit: NOAA)

Celebrate 50 years of ocean conservation and stewardship with us and #SaveSpectacular! Nearly 50 years ago, a new era of ocean conservation was born by creating a system of national marine sanctuaries. Since then, the National Marine Sanctuary System has grown into a nationwide network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments that conserve more than 620,000 square miles of spectacular ocean and Great Lakes waters.

Learn more

Educator Opportunity: EPA Environmental Education Grants

Artwork of two clasped hands reading "Together We Can Make the World a Better Place."

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

Under the Environmental Education Grants Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks grant applications from eligible applicants to support environmental education projects that promote environmental awareness and stewardship and help provide people with the skills to take responsible actions to protect the environment. For more information on this funding opportunity, please visit the EPA Environmental Education webpage.

Learn more

Educator Opportunity: B-WET Funding Now Open

Marine debris, mostly made up of single-use bottles, littering a marsh.

Marine debris is one of many critical factors impacting watersheds across the country (Credit: Dauphin Island Sea Lab).

Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) funding is provided through competitive grants that promote Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences. B-WET projects include student investigations of local environmental issues, professional development for teachers, and support to get Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences implemented throughout an entire district or school. Funding opportunities for the Chesapeake and Pacific Northwest B-WET programs are now open. 

Learn more

Student Opportunity: Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program

A pile of debris collected from an Ohio shoreline is sorted into piles.

Girl Scouts removed debris from South Bass Island State Park, Ohio (Credit: NOAA).

The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is seeking applications for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program from individuals, particularly women and minorities, who due to financial constraints, may not otherwise be able to pursue an advanced degree (Masters or Ph.D.) in oceanography, marine biology, maritime archaeology—these may include, but are not limited to ocean and/or coastal: engineering, social science, marine education, marine stewardship, cultural anthropology, and resource management disciplines. Several Nancy Foster Scholars have previously focused on issues related to marine debris, including research on microplastics!

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.

In the Caribbean: New Curriculum from the University of the Virgin Islands

Cover of the U.S. Virgin Islands Marine Debris Curriculum - Keeping Our Coastlines Clean

Explore the new hands-on, place-based middle school curriculum created by the University of the Virgin Islands (Credit: University of the Virgin Islands).

Marine debris is a pervasive, global problem and one that is felt locally in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Through a NOAA Marine Debris Program prevention grant, the University of the Virgin Islands adapted and revised marine debris lessons for USVI, including activities from Oregon Marine Debris STEAMSS, Turning the Tide on Trash, and Talking Trash and Taking Action. The curriculum was co-created with the input of educators from USVI who participated in workshops and provided input following in-class use. The curriculum also includes 15 spotlights, which highlight USVI-specific marine debris research, local researchers, community-led prevention efforts, and natural disaster impacts from marine debris.

Learn more

In the Northwest: 2021 Washington Marine Debris Action Plan Released

Cover of the 2021 Washington Marine Debris Action Plan.

Check out the action plan to learn about the many activities planned for Washington (Credit: NOAA).

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is pleased to share the 2021 Washington Marine Debris Action Plan. This document is the result of a collaborative effort between the Marine Debris Program and federal and state governments, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, industry, and academia, and represents a partner-led effort to guide marine debris actions in Washington State for the next two years.

Learn more

In Hawai‘i: Celebrating the Accomplishments of the 2010-2020 Marine Debris Action Plan

The cover of the 2010-2020 Hawai'i Marine Debris Action Plan Accomplishments Report.

Check out the report to learn about the history and accomplishments of the Hawai'i Marine Debris Action Plan community over the last 10 years (Credit: NOAA).

The Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan (Action Plan) was the first community-based marine debris action plan in the nation facilitated by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Established in 2010 and updated four times, it is a comprehensive framework for strategic action to reduce the ecological, health and safety, and economic impacts of marine debris in Hawai‘i by 2020. Education was a big part of the Action Plan, and between 2016–2018, eight organizations collectively reached over 15,000 students. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud of the Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan community and to present the 2010-2020 Accomplishments Report.

Learn more

In Hawai‘i: Marine Debris Removal Mission Concludes

Marine debris team members lay on the 124,000 pounds of marine debris removed during their mission.

The marine debris team with the nearly 124,000 pounds of debris removed from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Credit: NOAA).

September 22nd marked the completion of the marine debris removal mission in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The marine debris removal team arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard the charter vessel IMUA along with the nearly 124,000 pounds of marine debris they removed during their 30-day mission. Marine debris removal is of critical importance to both the natural and cultural components of the monument. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is pleased to have partnered in this collaborative undertaking.

To help bring this incredible mission to life in your classroom, check out Makani: The Albatross that Cares for the Land, Makani Ka Mōlī Mālama ‘Āina. This dual-language workbook engages readers to learn about Hawaiian wildlife, culture, navigation, and natural resource management in both English and Hawaiian. You can also engage in a live ship-to-shore interaction with researchers traveling to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and around the Hawaiian islands through December 19. Learn more about the E/V Nautilus expedition here

Learn more about this year's mission.

Learn more about the decades-long history of marine debris removal in the monument.

Featured Crafts: Zero-Waste Holiday Decor!

a wreath made out of natural materials.

A wreath hanging on a wall made out of tree trimmings, flowers, pinecones, and other natural materials from both native and invasive plants found on Hawai'i Island (Credit: NOAA).

From gifts to gift-wrap to decorations, there are a lot of ways to show festive spirit this time of year. Natural materials are a great way to decorate without buying anything new, and repurposing things that would have gone to the trash can add even more zero-waste sparkle to your home. The NOAA Marine Debris Program blog has featured a number of great ideas to reduce waste this season, including decorations and gift-giving ideas: 

Our featured activity in this issue is a festive way to repurpose hard-to-recycle materials into holiday decorations for your home or classroom! 

From Trash to Tinsel

A string of recycled tinsel strung across a wall.

This recycled tinsel can spice up any area of your space (Credit: NOAA).

If you're a person like me who loves their salty snacks, it can be pretty frustrating to wind up with a non-recyclable bag at the end of a movie marathon or get-together. Food wrappers like snack bags are one of the biggest sources of marine debris, even beating out cigarette butts in the 2019 International Coastal Cleanup! With this easy craft, you can give a new life to that bag and make it a part of your holiday decorations! 

Supplies Needed: 

  • Snack bags 
  • Scissors
  • Tape or twist ties
  • String


Demonstration of step 1: Cut the seam off of the bottom of the snack bag.

1. Rinse out your bag with soapy water and let dry. Then lay it out flat, cutting off the bottom seam.                                                  

Demonstration of step 2: cut the snack bag open along the vertical seam.

2. Cut the bag open along the vertical seam, spreading it out.                                                                                                   

Demonstration of step 3: Cut the bag into smaller rectangles.

3. Cut the bag into rectangles. Different sized pieces will give you different lengths for your tassels (which you can see in the example photo above).          

Demonstration of Step 4: the rectangle piece folded in half with fringe cut toward the fold.

4. Fold the smaller pieces in half and cut from the edge, stopping an inch or so before the fold.                                                       

Demonstration of step 5: the cut piece halfway rolled, with the printed side facing up and fringe on either side.

5. Unfold your piece, and flip it so that the printed side faces up. Roll up your tassel, so that there are two sides of fringe.                                                     

Demonstration of step 6: the rolled piece twisted at the center and folded in half.


6. Twist from the center of your tassel (the part that is un-cut) and fold in half. Using tape or twist ties, secure the top, ideally creating a small loop. 

7. Using string, create a garland with your tassels to decorate with! 

Depending on how many bags you have or how much tinsel you'd like to create, you can experiment with lots of different fringe lengths, widths, and even colors. 

Plus, if you're looking for more fun ways to repurpose materials to make your holiday decorations, try using the cardboard rolls from paper towels or wrapping paper to make snowflakes

Bonus Activity: Candy Wrapper Cleanup

A graphic saying to hold on to your Halloween candy wrappers.

In case you're still haunted by those wrappers, here's a few great ways to repurpose them into new activities (Credit: NOAA).

And if you still have candy (or just the wrappers) left over from Halloween, check out these fun upcycling activities from the University of North Carolina Wilmington's "Traveling through Trash" project page! Repurpose your old wrappers into pencil pouches, origami, or even geometric bracelets. 

Interested in more ways to help prevent marine debris at home, at school, or at the store? Dive into all kinds of ideas on our How to Help page. 

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