By: Leah Henry
In a tidal creek on the northeastern edge of Skidaway Island, GA, twenty 6th graders from a local Savannah school (STEM Academy) participated in a cleanup as part of Project SORT, a new education and outreach initiative from the University of Georgia and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
The Project SORT team and 6th grade students followed the high tide line, having fun “extracting” dock parts, bottles, plastic and other debris from the edges of the creek. Dodie Sanders, Project SORT’s lead said, “We have discovered that a lot of marine debris gets trapped high into the marsh along the creek’s edge and there was plenty of it! I do not think I have ever seen so much debris at any of our other sites.”
Cleanups are just one component of Project SORT – overall, the aim is to prevent marine debris from entering the environment in the first place by raising awareness. The University of Georgia also plans on using survey and cleanup data that the students collect to educate the public, other students, and teachers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The project leads will hold a teacher workshop and develop three traveling museum exhibits.
In smaller groups, students dug through their bushel baskets of debris to identify what they found. They discussed debris sources, impacts, and types, which inevitably lead to a lively brainstorm of ways to lessen the amount of the debris entering the coastal system. “It made a big impression on them – something that we are striving to do with this program,” Dodie said.
The most interesting item found was a glass bottle from a local distributor from 1866, another reminder that marine debris truly never goes away!