In this section, students examine ways they can help make a difference. 

MARINE DEBRIS Solutions: Materials for Grades 9-12

Lesson 1: Green Your School
from Oregon Green Schools

What can we do to reduce marine debris? Student "Green Teams" analyze school waste, work with school and community partners to reduce, reuse and recycle materials, and set goals to make a difference locally and globally.

What were the most abundant items in your waste audit? Which of those items have the greatest chance of becoming marine debris? Why? What actions can you take to reduce the amount of trash generated?


  • Students for Zero Waste Week is a school-driven, week-long campaign to reduce waste on school campuses and within local communities with the intention of moving towards zero waste.

Lesson 2: Upcycling
from Oregon Sea Grant

How can we create something new and useful from items that might otherwise become marine debris? Students engineer an artistic and sturdy item from single-use plastics that might otherwise end up in landfills or as marine debris, effectively removing these plastics from the waste stream.

Share upcycled projects with the community through a student art or engineering exhibition. Create and market an upcycled product that meets a local need. Implement practices in the classroom that reduce the use of single-use plastics. What other items could you create from marine debris?


Lesson 3: Beach Clean Up
Taking Action lesson from NOAA Turning the Tide on Trash

How can students work together in their community to reduce marine debris and share what they have learned? Students learn about community organizations and what actions they are taking to reduce marine debris. Students then can organize a cleanup of the school campus, a local waterway or beach, or join another community cleanup project.

Have students share their photos and/or results with an audience (other students, parents, community leaders) or in a poster that can be displayed in the school. How much trash was collected (number of bags, weight)? Estimate what the impact would be if every student in the school participated or everyone in the community.


Lesson 4: Making Connections Through Art

How can students convey what they have learned about Marine Debris in a meaningful and impactful way? Students synthesize what they have learned about marine debris and incorporate their knowledge into a presentation or display that helps others both 1) understand the problem and 2) take actions that contribute to solving the problem. This can be done through a variety of media including drawing/painting, marine debris mosaics and sculptures, or photography. Students can create video or poster Public Service Announcements or submit artwork to regional or national competitions such as the NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest. 

Share art and action messages with the public in an exhibit, through local media, and in national contests.


More about this focus area

There are so many sources that contribute to marine debris and therefore, many potential ways to address the problem and make a positive impact. From beach cleanups, to personal choices, to creating educational materials, we all have the ability to make a difference. One example is the Be Straw Free story which details how one student has made a significant impact by focusing on one single-use plastic item that often ends up as marine debris.

  • How can we prevent marine debris from getting into our ocean?
  • How can we clean up the marine debris that is already in our ocean?
  • How can we get more people involved in working on marine debris solution?
  • Although marine debris is a big problem, there are many actions we can take to reduce the problem
  • Personal behaviors such as reducing, reusing, recycling, and upcycling can help decrease marine debris
  • Community clean ups, education projects, and talking to policy and decision-makers can decrease marine debris

ESS3.C - Human Impacts on Earth Systems - Sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources, including the development of technologies