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NYSG Curriculum Teaches How to Reduce Impact Marine Debris

Plastic pollution on our shorelines is plain to see, but concern is mounting over the impacts of microplastics in our waters. Credit: Paul C. Focazio, NYSG

Marinedebris plasticpollutionandyou coverNew York Sea Grant (NYSG) has published “Plastic Pollution and You,” a 126-page, 15-lesson curriculum focused on a human-induced threat to the health of New York’s marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems. The curriculum is co-authored by Kathleen Fallon, a coastal processes and hazards specialist with New York Sea Grant at Stony Brook University, and Nate Drag, New York Sea Grant Great Lakes literacy specialist and Great Lakes program associate director at the University at Buffalo.

The curriculum is designed to be appropriate for multiple grade levels, meets New York State and Next Generation Learning Standards, and aligns with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) New York Ocean Action Plan and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program initiatives in New York’s coastal regions (Great Lakes and New York’s Marine and Coastal District). 

In addition to several teachers from across New York State, representatives from DEC, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Michigan State University Extension, Maryland and New York Sea Grant programs, and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker participated in reviewing the curriculum. 

“In Suffolk County, we have prioritized environmental protection through actions such as banning single-use plastic bags, personal care products with microbeads, and the release of helium balloons,” said Legislator Anker. “While legislation is an important part of environmental protection, we must also focus on educating our future generations about what they can do to reduce the negative impact that plastics have on our freshwater and marine life. Having sponsored Suffolk County Resolution 450-2018 to create the marine debris curriculum, I would like to thank New York Sea Grant, Dr. Kathleen Fallon and Nate Drag for their work in creating this important initiative.”

“New York Sea Grant was pleased to provide its experience and expertise in this collaborative effort to develop a new and innovative curriculum to educate and prompt interest in reducing and preventing plastic pollution across New York State’s marine and freshwater environments — from our Atlantic Ocean shoreline and Long Island Sound to the Hudson River Estuary, St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers, and the State’s two Great Lakes. The curriculum will serve an important role to inspire the next generation of coastal stewards,” said New York Sea Grant Director Rebecca L. Shuford, who is based at Stony Brook University. 

The “Plastic Pollution and You” lessons and activities urge students to think about what plastic is, how they use plastic, and about the consequences of plastic pollution in the environment. They learn the different types of plastics, their impact on marine and freshwater ecosystems, and about the recycling process and trash capture technology. 

Skills developed through the curriculum lessons include data collection, charting, mapping, position statement preparation, and the design of technological solutions, behavior change campaigns, public policy, and community-level action to address the plastic pollution problem.

Watch a recording of the “Plastic Pollution and You” curriculum introduction webinar for teachers and educators.

Funding for this curriculum development was provided through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund administered by DEC. 

Read the complete press release on the NYSG website.

NYSG, a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.


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