Several agencies and organizations working with the issue of marine litter (marine debris) offer educational material and special activities for children. The overall purpose of these efforts is to make children familiar with the marine environment, make them care about it and understand the consequences of abusing it. The educational programmes are about waste management in general and/or about marine litter in particular. A few examples of programmes and activities targetting children/students (and their teachers) are given here.
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River Thames in the United Kingdom is actually the cleanest estuary in any big city in Europe. It has 119 species of fish and 350 species of small water animals. However, it is blighted by thousands of tonnes of litter which is blown, thrown and washed into it.
The river also exports litter to the marine environment where it pollutes beaches and kills marine wildlife around the world, making this more than just a local aesthetic problem. Thames21 is a project to prevent and remedy this problem. Adopt-A-River is one project, which also has activities for kids. See also Litter in the environment and other facts on litter from rivers into the sea.
Turning the Tide on Trash is a comprehensive Learning Guide on Marine Debris. offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All components of the Guide are fairly large PDF documents. The guide includes a litter survey ("Let's Talk Trash"), as well as facts on definitions, characteristics, sources of marine debris, ways to reduce or prevent marine debris, the effects of marine debris, and how to develop solutions and spreading the word.
Since 1983, the shipping organization Hellenic Marine Environment Association (HELMEPA) organizes an annual public awareness environmental campaign on marine litter, including beach clean-up activities. Other environmental education activities include permanent and mobile exhibitions for students, a drawing/poster competition, etc. See also HELMEPA Junior.
Wildlife stuff for kids: Wildlife and pollution. Information for kids, with photos, about plastic pellets, plastic bags and plastic strappings, and the harm they do to wildlife. Site published by WildNetAfrica (South Africa).
The University of South Florida College of Marine Science presents Tampa Bay Beach Buddies, a Shoreline Cleanup Program designed to get citizens involved in cleaning up Tampa Bay's shorelines. The site includes background facts on marine litter and Lesson Activities, as well as a Student Litter Survey aimed at training students to analyze, collect data, compare and contrast.
"Water pollution can come from a lot of different places, but the number one reason that our creeks, rivers, lakes and beaches get dirty is from the water and other pollutants that flow into storm drains. " Kids' pages by the City of Oceanside Clean Water proramme,, with lots of illustrations, about storm water and marine pollution (marine litter, oils etc.).
Part of the Forth Estuary Forum Coastal Litter Campaign is to increase the level of education and awareness on marine litter with the help of education advisers and production of an education resource to be used by schools as part of the 5-14 curriculum. See also the Education campaign (with an interactive zone for students).
In the Kids and Teachers Corner of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) you will find background information and the Marine Debris Colouring Book. A variety of materials from other federal and state U.S. agencies, commercial and recreational organizations, and private individuals, has been compiled to alert youth and their families to the hazards persistent marine debris pose to our natural resources and marine life.
When a group "adopts" a beach as part of the Adopt-A-Beach program they commit to cleaning it at least three times per year, although school groups can fulfill their obligation with a single cleanup. Thousands of young people have participated in the annual Coastal Cleanup Day, the School Assembly Program, as well as adopting beaches and parks. The Problem of Marine Debris is part of the Save Our Seas curriculum, a marine curriculum of hands-on activities to help students understand the effects of marine debris on coastal wildlife and habitats. It provides the educational, scientific and motivational underpinnings of the program.
Originally a joint project for schools in Denmark, Finland. Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, Keep the Beach Clean is now open for all schools in Europe within the framework of the EU-supported Virtual School of the European Schoolnet. Pupils are to clean a beach from wastes/garbage during a period of one year, register what they find, and send the results to the Virtual School (project coordinator). About 5-10 schools from each country are envisaged as participants. The project is to result in a report to be submitted to politicians in different countries in Europe to demonstrate the extent of litter pollution.
Captain Cleanwater is one of the activity and colouring books in the Kids' Corner of the U.S. Coastguard. It contains 10 activities (including Clean Boating-Clean Water Activity, Trash Problems, Pollution Solutions, Marine debris is trouble for me! and Looking for pollution) and a Report Form.
Lesson Plan on Marine Debris is given by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu as part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Expeditions. The focus question is what trash characteristics that affect the likelihood it will become marine debris. The objective of the lessons is to make students able to define marine debris, categorize different types of debris, and determine how a material can influence what becomes marine debris. See questionnaire.
BeachBeat is a survey initiated by the British Environment Agency to report on and improve the visual quality of beaches across England and Wales. It is a visual survey only and does not involve collecting litter. Groups of volunteers from aged 8 upwards are invited to go out and survey beaches. All groups must be accompanied by an adult and have parental permission. BeachBeat has been established to give young people the chance to get involved in contributing to a better environment. By reporting the information they compile through the surveys they will be enabling the Environment Agency and it's partners to improve aesthetic quality of beaches. The information they obtain will help us to pinpoint site specific issues and take action to tackle them.
WaterShed Action is an initiative by the Center for Global Environmental Education, Hamline University, U.S. This site, about actions to take in your watershed to prevent littering of rivers, lakes (and ultimately, the sea), contains fact sheets, guides for action (including Adopt-A-River) and other stuff to learn and act.
“Detectives Cientificos de la Basura en las Playas” is an association of marine biologists and highschool teachers from Coquimbo in Chile. In the past few years they have conducted numerous activities with school kids from all over Chile. For all their activities, they have prepared easy-to-use guides (freely downloadable from the website) that school teachers from all over the world can use. The website also features two scientific stories for kids of all ages. The first story tells the story of two plastic bags called PLAS and TIKA – these two plastic bags are separated shortly after their birth, and after a long and adventurous life they finally come together again. The second story talks about the adventures of the young gull Lara, which gets entangled in a plastic bag but gets saved by a group of school kids.