Session Chairs: Anika Ballent, Algalita Marine Research and Education; Katie Allen, Algalita Marine Research and Education

This session is focused on using a real-world interdisciplinary approach to education. In order to prepare the next generation to take on the challenges of marine plastic pollution, we must shift the education paradigm to focus on scientific literacy, real-time systemic solutions, and innovations for the future.

Environmental responsibility should be a broadly held value. Fundamental to our existence, it deserves a central place in public education and should be seen as an indicator of social progress. With such importance, why isn’t environmental education being infused into every student’s day?  How can a tangible topic like marine plastic pollution help teachers prepare the next generation to take on the challenges ahead?

By going beyond rhetoric and embracing an interdisciplinary approach, educators of all levels should be encouraged to infuse broad elements of the plastic pollution issue into their curriculum.  Reaching into the social sciences, engineering, design, and beyond, a full understanding of the topic requires exploration from the perspective of many different subjects. This real-world interdisciplinary approach will empower students to tackle the issue through an understanding of real-time systemic sources, barriers, and solutions.

The key to successful environmental education is being able to keep pace with environmental degradation as well as changes in policy, technology, and culture. This seemingly impossible feat can be achieved when teachers and professors build partnerships with organizations that are deeply embedded in all facets of the issue. It is up to the outside organization to design and maintain up-to-date educational resources for teachers to deploy in their classrooms.  Without this support system, educators will continue to teach an ineffective form of environmental education simply because they cannot keep up with the deluge of information necessary to stay informed.

During this session, the group will discuss how organizations can assist educators in becoming learning practitioners who prepare the next generation to address the plastic pollution issue, and other global environmental issues, in the most effective manner – at a systemic level. In addition, we’ll share the importance of designing resources to fit within current educational frameworks including the Next Generation Science Standards. The session will also dive into an evaluation of already existing marine debris educational resources to identify the most effective approaches and needed improvements for support teachers.

The 6th International Conference on Marine Debris needs to be forward-looking. The global understanding of the issue has developed to the point where a focus needs to be put onto quickly employing effective solutions that address the problem at the root. Educating the next generation of scientists, politicians, industry leaders and consumers to be able to address the issue through sustainability, circular economy and an interdisciplinary approach is a vital part of that solution.




Plastic Pollution: The Gateway to Effective Environmental Education

presenting: Katie Allen (Algalita Marine Research and Education, United States); authors: Katie Allen (Algalita Marine Research and Education, United States)

It’s become clear that previous generations failed to foresee the impending plastic pollution crisis. We must ask ourselves: in retrospect, why didn’t mankind fear the consequences of such a persistent and polluting synthetic material? Why did we fail to thoughtfully design products to fit within a circular model of production?

Answers to these questions are complex; however, fundamental to the response is an understanding of how the lack of effective environmental education has deprived our population of the critical thinking skills necessary for identifying, deploying, and maintaining systemic solutions. As millions of tons of plastics continue to accumulate in our ocean each year, we have no choice but to admit that we’ve acted irresponsibly.

Driven by a commitment to preparing youth to take on the challenges ahead, it’s paramount that we stop marginalizing environmental subjects and begin infusing them into existing academic curricula at all levels. Using the issue of plastic pollution as a gateway, we’ll explore what a healthy integrated collaboration among educators, NGOs, and government could ideally look like. We’ll discuss how such partnerships have worked in the past as well as potential strategies to overcome political, economic, and cultural barriers.

Solving plastic pollution, among other environmental issues, is possible, not through utopian idealism, but through a strategic and guided paradigm shift with its first spark within the framework of our current educational system.


Preliminary lessons from the Integrated Plastic Pollution Curriculum

presenting: Anika Ballent (Algalita Marine Research and Education, United States); authors: Anika Ballent (Algalita Marine Research and Education, United States)

As the global issue of plastic pollution develops, educational resources that engage individuals on a personal level are in high demand, because personal engagement and investment in this issue is key to promote effective changes in an individual’s relationship to plastic and their environment.

To address this, Algalita Marine Research and Education provides youth education and leadership programs around plastic pollution. Algalita’s Integrated Plastic Pollution Curriculum (IPPC) brings together scientific, political, social, and economic lessons through hands-on activities and student-led projects. The IPPC is designed to be easily updated, integrated by educators and engaging for students. It approaches the topic of plastics pollution from both the individual’s perspective and the global systems perspective; it focuses on changing people’s perceptions of plastic as a resource and increasing people’s understanding of the complexities of the issue.

To thoughtfully evaluate the effectiveness of first version of the curriculum, 10-15 public school, K-12 educators will pilot the lessons and provide feedback through surveys and direct discussion around several evaluation themes. The evaluation and feedback themes will include topics such as: What challenges were faced in implementing this curriculum? How can this curriculum be better adapted to meet standards and other regulations? How well did this curriculum engage students personally at the level of long-term commitment and behavioral shifts?

The findings of the primary trial will be discussed in this session to provide educators with information and ideas to bring into their own classrooms.


Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit

presenting: Mary Whaley (monterey Bay Aquarium, United States); authors: Mary Whaley (monterey Bay Aquarium, United States), Beth Callaghan (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

This Summit, for 3rd-12th grade teachers and their students, is designed to address plastic pollution issues in watersheds and marine environments by reducing single-use plastic consumption.Our focus is on action–changing buying and consumption behaviors of teachers, students and their families to choose alternatives to disposable plastics.With their teachers’ guidance, students are encouraged to implement action projects in their local community to reduce single-use items. Each action project is a unique, community-based approach, defined by the participating teacher(s) and their students.

The main program elements are three events at MBA and student-driven action projects. The first two events aim to assist teachers in developing community relevant plastic reduction projects with their students. The final event is to celebrate and share the accomplishments of those projects.

Fall Kick-off:The series begins with an evening keynote session and conservation exhibitors at the Aquarium. Teachers sleep over in the Aquarium and participate in breakout sessions the following day. Teachers hear from researchers, scientists and past participants to learn about strategies to reduce pollution sources in their communities. They learn about types of plastic pollution, with an emphasis on single-use plastics, and discuss impacts of single-use plastics on animal and human health.

Winter Networking Event: Teachers committed to engaging students in single-use plastics reduction projects meet to exchange ideas, learn more about the issues and get an opportunity to troubleshoot project implementation with colleagues, Aquarium staff and expert speakers.

Spring Symposium: Teachers are invited to bring five students to present at an MBA sleepover. The event includes a young,inspirational speaker with messages of youth empowerment.


Lessons learned from a nationwide Citizen Science Project about Marine Debris in Germany as a tool for educating school classes in science

presenting: Tim Kiessling (Kiel Science Factory, Germany); authors: Katrin Knickmeier (Kiel Science Factory, Germany), Katrin Kruse (Kiel Science Factory), Dennis Brennecke (Kiel Science Factory), Alice Nauendorf (Kiel Science Factory), Ilka Parchmann (Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Eduction IPN), Martin Thiel (Facultad Ciencias del Mar), Tim Kiessling (Kiel Science Factory)

Kiel Science Factory, Germany, is a school and teaching laboratory, which breaches the gap between school education and university research. Since opening in 2012, about 20.000 schoolchildren and teachers joined different programs. The combination of research and learning is very effective to attract young people to pursue scientific careers, communicate science and increase teacher interest in current science. In two nationwide plastic samplings in German rivers and streams (to attract midland people) in 2016 and 2017 we used a citizen science approach to (i) generate relevant litter information, and (ii) teach sustainable development about littering and marine debris. A booklet for schoolchildren (step-by-step guide to conducting the project, including preparation and follow-up work) as well as learning materials and worksheets for teachers (suitable for educational work in curricular and extra-curricular settings) was provided. The biggest challenge to work with teachers and schoolchildren as volunteers in Citizen Science projects is to attract and motivate them to participate and then upload their data on the webpage. Therefore special effort is needed – a win-win-situation for teachers, students and scientists has to be offered. More than 1600 schools in Germany ordered the booklets and materials. The experiences with this project setting (strength: e.g. huge amount of data and public interest, and weakness: e.g. high workload; compromises required) as well as practical advice and recommendations (e.g. conduct teacher trainings to improve data flow and quality) are offered and reflected in the presentation. All materials are available in German and English and free for download. Financial support: Kiel Science Factory, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, ‘The Future Ocean’, Lighthouse Foundation.


Marine Debris STEAMSS Curriculum Engages Students

presenting: Cait Goodwin (Oregon Sea Grant, United States); authors: Cait Goodwin (Oregon Sea Grant, Kerry Carlin-Morgan (Oregon Coast Aquarium), Ruth McDonald (Oregon Coast STEM Hub)

Communities in the U.S. Pacific northwest have been increasingly aware of and concerned about marine debris, especially given an influx of new materials washing ashore since the 2011 tsunami in Japan. To help educators teach about marine debris issues, we developed a Marine Debris STEAMSS Curriculum in Oregon for students in grades 4 through 12. Integrating the subject areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and Social Studies (STEAMSS), the curriculum focuses on experiential, hands-on activities in the classroom and in the field. The collected teacher-tested resources enable educators to create in-depth, project based learning units, work across disciplines, and help students engage in stewardship actions.

Development of the curriculum was funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program and created by Oregon Sea Grant in partnership with Oregon Coast Aquarium and Lincoln County School District. Partners gathered and organized existing and new curricular materials relating to the topic of marine debris, and shared the materials with teachers through a professional development workshop. Teachers implemented activities with their students, provided feedback on the effectiveness of the lessons, and modifications were incorporated into the curriculum prior to its publication on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub website:

Lessons are grouped into three grade bands of Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School, and are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards. Materials are grouped into four categories that scaffold understanding of the issue of marine debris. From Composition/Abundance and Sources/Transport, to Impacts and Solutions, students explore a complex, real-world problem with local relevance and global implications.


Washed Ashore’s Integrated Arts Marine Debris Curriculum: Combining Art and Science

presenting: Patrick Chandler (Washed Ashore, United States); authors: Patrick Chandler (Washed Ashore, United States), Angela Haseltine Pozzi (Washed Ashore)

The Washed Ashore Project believes that by combining science and art, we change the world. Art enables us to move beyond what we know. It engages the creative, imaginative, and intuitive parts of brain that must be used to find innovative solutions that will recreate the future.

Under the guidance of professional artist and director, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, our project works with thousands of volunteers to create giant sculptures made from marine debris to spark changes in consumer habits. With NOAA support, Washed Ashore has worked to create a curriculum based on the goals of our project. The lessons bring together art and science to help students understand plastic pollution and communicate about it using the language of the arts. Core competencies in science, writing, visual arts and social studies are also linked to lessons to enable the curriculum to cross subject boundaries.

In this session co-authors Patrick Chandler, Education Consultant, and Angela Haseltine Pozzi, Executive Director, will introduce the Integrated Arts Marine Debris Curriculum (IAMDC) to educators so that they can bring these lessons back to their own classrooms. The curriculum is a twelve-lesson unit designed for fourth through sixth grade students. However, activities can also stand alone and can be modified to suit the needs of formal and informal educators teaching to any level. The curriculum provides a unique approach to teaching about science through the arts and offers innovative ways to discuss the issue of marine debris for both students and educators.


Heirs To Our Oceans’ Empowerment Learning: The Next Generation Taking The Ocean Crisis Into Their Own Hands

presenting: April Peebler (Heirs To Our Oceans, United States); authors: April Peebler (Heirs To Our Oceans, United States)

Heirs To Our Oceans are youth leaders who are dedicated to inspire awareness, responsibility and action amongst youth worldwide to protect the waters of our Blue Planet for them and for future generations.

Heirs To Our Oceans are committed to showing the world that human impact on our oceans today affects the health of our planet not only today but also that it will affect future generations, their children. These young world changers hold themselves out as leaders in ocean conservation. They are empowered and taking charge for their generation as they see what is happening to the oceans right in front of them and are determined to do something about it.

The Heirs study these real world issues through which they are developing their problem solving and critical thinking skills. As junior scientists, they engage in independent learning as well as in customized, interdisciplinary learning where all major subject matters are tied to the theme of tackling the ocean crisis.

The Heirs delve deeply into their areas of focus include the importance of keystone species, marine botanicals, role of top predators, cetaceans and coral reefs, as well as the detriments of plastics and other marine debris in our oceans, ocean acidification, warming waters, overfishing and improper fishing practices, and endangerment of so many species. The Heirs work with expert researchers and scientists, conservationists, mathematicians, policy makers, and more to learn more about the ocean matters today and for decades to come.

The Heirs are starting a global movement from the ground up through holding youth empowerment and human impact awareness camps and through starting H2OO chapters for ages 9-17. Heirs also speak out publicly on the ocean crisis.

Heirs To Our Oceans are creating the next generation of environmental leaders.


The role of action-oriented MOOCs for addressing global marine litter pollution

presenting: Heidi Savelli (United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi); authors: Ansje Löhr (1Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Department of Science, Open University of the Netherlands), Heidi Savelli (United Nations Environment Programme), Raoul Beunen (Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Department of Science, Open University of the Netherlands), Carolien Kroeze (Water Systems and Global Change Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands), Marco Kalz (Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Department of Science, Open University of the Netherlands), Ad Ragas (Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Department of Science, Open University of the Netherlands), Bernardo Tabuenca (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería de Sistemas Informáticos. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), Frank Van Belleghem (Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Department of Science, Open University of the Netherlands), Charlotte Verburg (Faculty of Engineering Technology, Department of Water Engineering & Management, University of Twente, The Netherlands), Aaron Vuola (United Nations Environment Programme)

Since the 1950’s the amount of plastics in the marine environment is gradually increasing. Worldwide there is increasing concern about the risks and possible adverse effects of (micro-) plastics to marine and aquatic organisms, and human health. Moreover, plastic litter pollution is seriously threatening the availability of clean water, a key issue in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. There are many worldwide initiatives and strategies aiming at action for reduction and prevention of marine litter for example by the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML), the Clean Seas Campaign or the G7 countries. Most initiatives are committed to priority actions and solutions to combat marine litter both on land and at sea. They also stress the need to address education as one of the tools to inspire action and guide policy change. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Marine litter was developed within the framework of GPML and the Clean Seas Campaign and sponsored by UN Environment. MOOCs are a revolutionary concept in higher education, whereby course content is delivered online and free of costs to participants around the world. The MOOC on Marine Litter was created in order to spread knowledge, stimulate leadership and offers opportunities for actionable and change-oriented learning. This presentation deals with the role and effectiveness of the MOOC in addressing marine litter pollution and reducing and preventing marine litter. The MOOC enhances (international) cooperation, reaches different stakeholders and helps to form a global network of actors actively involved in addressing marine litter challenges.


A Cross-Cultural, Interdisciplinary Approach to Marine Debris Education.

presenting: Christine Parfitt (Bottle for Botol, Australia); authors: Christine Parfitt (Faculty of Management, Science & Technology, Department of Science, Open University of the Netherlands, Australia)

Australians who travel to Indonesia are shocked by the plastic waste they witness on the streets, walk past on the beach, and paddle through in the ocean. In Australia, we have relatively effective waste-management schemes in place that hide the plastic problem from the public eye, making it difficult to communicate to students the scale of the global problem.

Bottle for Botol works with students in Australia and Indonesia to tackle this problem. Through Indonesia-Australian school partnerships, students learn about each other’s waste practices, and how technical, socio-cultural and economic factors affect these practices. Students communicate about innovative ways to reduce single-use plastic consumption and work together to keep our shared oceans clean. Our program aims to inspire students to collaborate across cultures and disciplines.

Bottle for Botol runs a train the trainer model, providing practical, enjoyable and informative lessons designed collaboratively by teachers and marine scientists in Australia and Indonesia. Our Indonesian program directly tackles gaps in knowledge and removes barriers to environmentally responsible behaviours: specifically targeting single-use plastic cups of water. In contrast, our Australian program has been much more flexible, allowing teachers to incorporate our activities into all areas of the curriculum in junior and high school. This presentation will collate the work that our Australian teachers have created and provide examples of how they have addressed the plastic pollution problem in their classes within subjects as diverse as Student Leadership, Art, Indonesian, and Businesses Studies.


Empowering Communities to Reduce Land-Based Sources of Marine Debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands

presenting: Kristin Grimes (University of the Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands, U.S.); authors: Kristin Grimes (University of the Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands, U.S.), Carrie Jo Bucklin (Southern Utah University), Sennai Habtes (University of the Virgin Islands), Howard Forbes, Jr. (Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service), Marcia Taylor (Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service), Cait Goodwin (Oregon Sea Grant), Sydney Nick (University of the Virgin Islands)

In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), land-based sources of marine debris result from high residential waste production, lack of large-scale recycling, scarcity of bulk waste disposal locations, and inefficient roadside waste collection and transport to local landfills, leading to illegal dumping and habitual littering of surrounding hillsides. With funds from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, we developed a targeted, ridge-to-reef educational and outreach program on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in 2016-2017 to change knowledge and attitudes towards marine debris and lead to its reduction. We hosted a professional development workshop for 27 educators, 10 University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Masters of Marine & Environmental Science (MMES) students, and additional, territorial stakeholders with marine debris, STEM education, and inclusion interests. The workshop introduced new, USVI-specific curricula adapted from Oregon Sea Grant’s “Marine Debris STEAMSS” that highlights Caribbean ecosystems and local research. Seven Community Transfer Projects (CTPs), co-developed by educators and UVI MMES students, were funded and implemented during Spring 2017 to engage USVI youth and the broader community in creative, culturally-relevant projects to reduce land-based sources of marine debris in the Territory. CTPs model place-based, knowledge-to-action best practices for underserved populations that may serve as useful examples for others. The USVI were greatly impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 storms that devastated the islands during September 2017. These storms magnified marine debris issues in the Territory, but present an opportunity to highlight solutions and challenges to this important economic, environmental, and community issue.


Making environmental care an integral part of the school environment; an example from the Balearic Islands

presenting: Mari Gutic (Asociación Ondine, Spain); authors: Mari Gutic (Asociación Ondine, Spain), Silvia Frey (OceanCare)

Convinced that the only way to approach the root cause of any human created problem and reach lasting results is to involve those same humans into the solution of it, Asociación Ondine has developed three separate yet interrelated initiatives to tackle the issues of plastic pollution together with local communities in the Balearic Islands. Through the Dos Manos Beach Clean ups, School Programme and Partners Programme, the organisation works with households, schools, companies and event organisers to stop the issue at its source by facilitating reduction of single-use-plastics and creating a community-driven movement for positive change.

The Dos Manos Schools Programme, provided free of charge, explores the issue of plastic in the marine environment. Students study the impact of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems, the connectivity between human behaviour and the marine environment, and where responsibility lies. They conduct a Dos Manos beach clean up, undertake a scientific survey, analyse results and invent solutions to the problem.

Since the project launch in 2017 several schools have opted to reduce their single-use-plastics. Moreover, the Dos Manos Projects Guidebook is developed for teachers. It consists of 10 projects with a clear call to action and allows students to solidify themselves as active change-makers. To help shape an environmentally conscious and pro-active young generation, an annual competition and a Dos Manos “Schools Portal” to encourage shared learning and build an international “ideas bank” for positive solutions to plastic pollution are being developed and the integration of the programme within existing grant funding programmes for entrepreneurial students and local school curriculums are planned.


Education to Inspire Behavioral Change and Activism

presenting: Doorae Shin (Kokua Hawaii Foundation, United States); authors: Doorae Shin (Kokua Hawaii Foundation, United States), Natalie McKinney

Plastic Free Hawaiʻi is a program of the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 by Kim and Jack Johnson to support environmental education in Hawaiʻi schools and communities. Plastic Free Hawaiʻi (PFH) seeks to minimize single-use plastics in Hawaiʻi by educating and empowering schools, businesses, and community members. We offer a solutions-based approach to tackle plastic pollution.

On top of traditional presentations that emphasize the power of leading by example, Plastic Free Hawaiʻi work with students and youth to launch campaigns in their schools and communities to reduce single-use plastics. This includes campaigns to eliminate single-use plastics from being used in cafeterias or banning the sales of plastic water bottles on school campuses. PFH has worked with students who have convinced their schools to switch to reusables in their cafeterias. PFH also empowers students to be active in legislative efforts by offering workshops in partnership with Surfrider Foundation. The first of its kind is called “Civics is Trending,” reaching 200 high school and college students so that they can actively advocate for bills to prevent plastic pollution in Hawaiʻi. A parallel event, called Civics is Sexy, is in its 4th year with very successful turnouts to train the public on getting involved in legislative advocacy. Another educational offering include the annual PFH School Mural Contest, which encourages students create murals out of marine debris and bottle caps that share a vision of a Plastic Free Hawaiʻi.