How could a hiker’s lost bottle cap end up in the ocean? Does all marine debris float? These were just some of the questions posed to kids while they played Marine Debris Jeopardy during NOAA’s recent Bring Your Child to Work Day. Along with two other colleagues, I spent an entertaining morning educating several groups of children, ages 10-12, on what marine debris is, why they should care about it, and what actions they can take to reduce and prevent this type of pollution. After an overview discussion on marine debris, the students furthered their knowledge by engaging in a unique ORR product, Marine Debris Jeopardy. A morning spent away from computers and answering questions from 10-year-olds provided a welcome (yet exhausting!) treat for us. Watching a kid grasp the concept of habitat provides a much more rewarding experience than meeting a deadline to provide comments on proposed legislation.
Children are a sponge for marine debris education; they can easily grasp and connect to it. Kids seem to provide the reaction to marine debris we adults seem to filter at times and can freely ask the questions adults sometimes hold in when we see marine debris on the beach. I used to spend my summers as a kids’ kayak instructor, spending numerous hours walking the shoreline with all different age groups. Every day I would be asked why a tire was on the beach or why so many old soda cans were in one area. Who was doing this to their beach? They would get mad and confused at the sight of marine debris rather than just accepting it as a reality of society, which was great to see. Kids clearly demonstrated that marine debris hits an emotional chord, especially when it affects marine mammals or birds. I guarantee that if you take a photo of a seal trapped in a buoy rope you will hear the same reaction in all of the classrooms it is presented to. Teaching kids about the environmental resources I seek to protect and restore seems to be the best rejuvenator here in “cube land.” I challenge you to name a better motivator.