By: Nir Barnea
Education is at the core of marine debris prevention. It changes hearts and informs minds, encouraging people to make smart choices. And what better place to start than schools?
On February 1, teachers gathered at a productive one-day training on marine debris, led by Oregon Sea Grant, at the Hatfield Science Center in Newport, Oregon. Presentations covered marine debris as a local and global problem, marine debris transport and modeling, marine debris as a vector for invasive species, and the impact of marine debris on wildlife.
The training was part of a partnership project to engage 4th-12th grade students in marine debris efforts through a comprehensive Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Social Studies (STEAMSS)-based marine debris curriculum. The teachers involved will take that curriculum back to their students and engage them in project-based learning and citizen science projects.
The project partners are Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon Coast Aquarium, Lincoln County School District, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
Hands-on activities at the workshop included a beach survey, sorting marine debris from organic matter in a sandy “beach box,” finding microplastics in sand from the beach, dissecting albatross boluses (masses of chewed food) to find an array of plastic debris, and constructing extremely creative and wholly biodegradable drifters from fruit, vegetables, and wooden sticks.
The training and marine debris curriculum provides teachers the tools needed to educate and empower students to make a difference in their communities.