Plastic Pollution and You: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum
Publications: Success Stories - Extension (2023)


Kathleen Fallon, NYSG Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist, E:, P: (631) 632-8730

Nate Drag, NYSG Great Lakes Literacy Specialist, E:, P: (716) 645-3610 

NYSG-developed curricula focus teacher and student attention on today’s pressing environmental issues, including plastic pollution and marine debris

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines marine debris as persistent solid materials that are manufactured and disposed of into the marine environment or the Great Lakes. This includes land-based debris that is littered into rivers or enters the watershed through stormwater discharges and improper waste management practices. One of the most common forms of marine debris is plastic pollution, which adversely affects wildlife, habitat, and humans.

To build upon and supplement existing efforts to educate students on the ecological impacts of plastic pollution, New York Sea Grant (NYSG), in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, designed Plastic Pollution and You: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum to Explore Our Role in Plastic Pollution with 5-lesson units on Plastic Pollution, Plastic Reduction, and Plastic Pollution in Our Water. Activities incorporate the social, economic, and public context of plastic pollution and marine debris; are flexible and versatile enough to accommodate changing learning environments; and can be adapted to meet individual classroom needs. The curriculum increases students’ environmental literacy and deepens their understanding of the climate-related inequities that communities contend with and how people can play a role in addressing them.

In April of 2022, NYSG released the curriculum in conjunction with a webinar workshop for teachers and educators. Thirty individuals (74% from NY) participated live; more than 140 individuals have watched a recorded version on YouTube. In a post-webinar survey, 93% of participants reported increased knowledge of plastic pollution educational resources and 80% agreed they will be comfortable using the curriculum lessons. More than 100 people, representing 25 states and three countries, have downloaded the curriculum from the NYSG website. NYSG presented the curriculum and demonstrated lessons at the National Marine Education Association Conference at Hofstra University in July (30 attendees) and the Trout in Classroom Conference in Hyde Park in October (25 attendees). The WPBS Weekly television series featured the curriculum in September, including a spotlight on its implementation by Central Square School District teacher Fred Kowanes. Kowanes is one of several teachers who provided review of the curriculum draft.

This NYSG educational resource focuses student attention on plastic pollution as one of today’s most pressing environmental pollution issues.


• Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker 
• New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Funding: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

More Info: New York Sea Grant

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

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

Home *  What is NYSG? *  Research *  Extension *  Education *  News & Events *  Publications
  Grants & Policies * Staff * NYSG Sites *  Related Sites * (631) 632-6905

Problems viewing our Site? Questions About our Site's Social Media / Other Features? - See Our Web Guidelines

For NYSG Staff ... Site Administration