kids doing cleanups and collecting data
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We've endeavored to provide you everything you need to hold a cleanup, from preparatory lessons through cleanup materials, to data analysis. Participating schools are NOT required to do pre- and post-lessons, but these can help illuminate the impact of a cleanup and tie it into your education standards.

NGSS PRACTICES and PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS as They Relate to Planning, Data Collection, and Follow-up

Pre-Cleanup Lessons and Resources

Just like water, trash can move through a watershed, down streets, through storm drains, creeks and rivers, and eventually out to a lake or the ocean. Preventing and removing litter in school yards and neighborhoods is stopping marine debris before it happens! You may not have the sound of the surf in your ears, but you are taking very important action to protect our coast and ocean and the creatures that depend on a healthy ecosystem to survive.

What is a watershed?

Marine debris and nonpoint source pollution:

Recommended books for classroom read-aloud or student reading:


  • The Adopt-A-Beach School Assembly Program - 21 minutes, grades 3 and up. The Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education produced this DVD, which includes excerpts from a live assembly program for students about the sources and impacts of marine debris. 2009. DVD free by request.
  • Saving Inky - 20:25 min. running time. A video for all ages about a pygmy sperm whale that ingested plastics from the ocean, was treated at the Baltimore Aquarium and then set free. 1994. DVD available free from our lending library or video available for viewing online in three parts.
  • The Trash Troll - 12:30 min. running time, for grades K-5. Teaches children the impacts of beach trash on marine animals. 1993. DVD available free from our lending library.
  • Synthetic Sea: Plastics in the Ocean - 9 min. approximate running time, grades 7 and up. An alarming look at the role plastics is playing in our waters, specifically the Pacific Ocean, by Algalita Marine Research Institute. DVD available free from our lending library (2001) or online (2010).
  • Gyre: Creating Art From a Plastic Ocean - 20:14 minutes. Grades 7 and up. National Geographic program shows an artists' expedition to Alaska with the goal to make art from the trash found on the beaches. Online.

  • Ocean Heroes: The Plastics Problem - 5 Gyres Institute - 2:17 minutes. Grades 9 and up. One World One Ocean interview with Anna Cummins and Marcus Erickson about plastic pollution in the ocean. Online.

  • Marine Debris - 3:17 minutes. All ages. An explanation of the marine debris problem by NOAA National Ocean Service. Online.
  • Our Debris Filling the Sea - 2:36 minutes. Grades 4 and up. NOAA presents the marine debris problem. Streaming, downloadable and captioned.

  • Trash in the Deep Sea: Bringing a Hidden Problem to Light - 4:12 minutes. Grades 4 and up. Describes Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's research into debris in the deep ocean.

  • The Majestic Plastic Bag - 3:59 minutes. Grades 4 and up. Mock "wildlife" documentary about the plastic bag, from Heal the Bay. Online.
  • Ocean Trash is a Problem You Can Solve - 1:29 minutes. All ages. Statistics from International Coastal Cleanup Day from the Ocean Conservancy. Online.
  • Midway Journey short films on YouTube. Impacts of plastic trash on Midway Island and the island's nesting Laysan Albatross. Some recommended titles:
    • Plastic Beach - 2:25 minutes. The seemingly endless deposition of plastic debris onto a single beach on Midway Island. All ages, however this does not present any solutions, just the problem.
    • Bottle Caps - 4:18 minutes. Grades 4 and up. Examining the carcass of a Laysan albatross, and the plastic contents of its stomach, with the Deputy Wildlife Manager of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
    • Junk Food III - Looking in the Mirror - 3:13 minutes. Grades 4 and up. A very up-close, emotional examination of a Laysan albatross carcass, with reflection on the connection to human health.



  • A few slides about marine debris and where it comes from (PowerPoint)
  • A PowerPoint from Gilroy High School teacher Jeff Manker, reflecting on his experience visiting Midway Island. Shows the impact of plastic pollution on the Laysan albatross that nest there, and how choices that students make on the mainland can have an impact. Why Plastic Bottle Caps Matter

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