DUML’s Community Science Program on Marine Debris

DUML’s Community Science Program on Marine Debris is a year-long

Cleaning our beaches and quantifying trash!

interdisciplinary community science program for 4th grade classes in Carteret County developed by DUML researchers, local teachers and community members. The ideas for the activities and topics were developed during a Vision Workshop in April 2017; and piloted with two 4th grade classes and at the Fishing4Plastics tournament at the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. We used feedback from these events, worked with local educators, and developed a year-long community science program for 4th grade students.

DUML’s Marine Debris program provides knowledge on marine debris, art mosaic methods, solid waste and recycling, remote sensing via drones, and scientific sampling. And armed with this background knowledge, students

Making mosaics with marine debris plastic

then go out into the field to collect data on marine debris accumulation and conduct a beach clean up in Rachel Carson Reserve. Students then use their data to understand local and global marine debris trends and make a difference in their community. This year-long program has math, art, literature, civics, science, and technology activities; all tied to local standards!

How can your 4th or 5th grade class in Carteret County be part of this program?

Currently we are running this program with teachers from four schools in Carteret County who have participated in the Marine Debris Teacher Workshop (July 2017). If you are interested in getting your school/class involved, contact the DUML community science team and we will work with you to schedule an additional workshop.


Marine Debris Teacher Workshop

In July 2017, the DUML Community Science Team and the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve ran a day-long teacher training workshop on the Marine Debris Community Science program (6-hrs of continuing education credit). The workshop was open to any 4th or 5th grade teachers at schools within Carteret County. This program was interdisciplinary so art, math, science, ELA, and technology teacher were all welcome!


Marine Debris Pilot Program

On June 2nd and 5th, 2017 we ran two pilot programs for the Marine Debris Community Science project with fifty-one 4th Grade students at Tiller and Beaufort Elementary School. The 4th grade students collected over 200 lbs of trash with plastic bags, plastic bottles and food wrappers being the most numerous items! Students also participated in Marine Debris activities around english language, poetry and art.

Beach is cleaned!

Making art with marine debris







On June 3rd, 2017 DUML students ran a community art table at Beaufort’s Maritime Museum during the Fishing 4 Plastics Tournament! We created some great art from marine debris plastics!

Marine debris mosaics

Duke undergrads displaying community art!



Marine Debris Vision Workshop

On April 11th, 2017 we hosted 33 teachers, community members, and scientists at our Marine Debris vision workshop. This vision workshop brought together leading educators, resource managers, and scientists around Carteret County and identified key opportunities and activities for DUML’s Marine Debris Community Research Project.  

Marine Debris working groups

Drones and marine debris

Breakout groups

Our goal was for the vision workshop to shape ways in which DUML’s marine debris research can be holistically incorporated into elementary school curriculum (focusing on grade four, but including follow-up activities/curriculum for grade 5); and we received INCREDIBLE ideas and input. The results of this workshop informed our community research team on the types of programming that our schools/teachers/community want to see as part of the Marine Debris Project. The community research team (which includes volunteer teachers and community experts!) designed a community science research and education program that addresses these programmatic needs within the confines of logistical realities surrounding marine debris research.

Marine Debris Evaluation

In May 2018, we evaluated our first year-long marine debris program by interviewing the fourth grade participants from Tiller Elementary School, Beaufort Elementary School, and St. Egbert’s Catholic School. We asked the students a variety of questions to determine what they learned, if the program had an impact on them, if they were going to change any of their behaviors, and if they had told friends or family members about what they’d learned. Here is a video created using the photo voice method to summarize the students’ takeaways and display pictures of them engaging in the marine debris activities:


What we have done at-a-glance:

  • Developed curriculum for the marine debris project (spring 2017) 
  • Designed and piloted the activities with two classrooms (spring 2017)
  • Revised the project/curriculum with feedback from the pilot activities and created the DUML Marine Debris Curriculum workbook (summer 2017)
  • Hosted teacher training workshop for Marine Debris Community Research (July 27th 2017)
  • Running Marine Debris Community Research programs in 4th and 5th grade classrooms throughout Carteret County (fall 2017/winter 2018)