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Virtual Education about Marine Debris and Turtles

JULY 13, 2020 — This summer, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) MarineQuest, with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Prevention Grant, is providing fun, virtual lessons about the impacts of marine debris on turtles for the young or young at heart through their program, Turtle Trash Collectors.  

Students working together at a table.
Students participating in a simulated sea turtle necropsy. Photo Credit: Janice Rickey/Rachel Freeman School of Engineering.

This program originally focused on classroom visits to third through fifth graders in southeastern North Carolina. During Turtle Trash Collectors in-school visits, students would participate in a hands-on simulation of a sea turtle necropsy (animal dissection) and learn that marine debris can have major impacts on sea turtles, even causing death. Students recognized many of the debris items that impacted their turtle as objects they frequently use, and were encouraged to think of solutions to save sea turtles in the future. 

However, because of early school closures the MarineQuest team revamped their in-person programming to create fun, virtual lessons including: 

  • Virtual participation in a simulated sea turtle necropsy
  • How trash in the ocean can impact sea turtles
  • How trash can get to the ocean
  • Ways we can all help stop marine debris

Students also learn how they can participate in the Turtle Trash Collectors badging program, and earn digital turtle badges by cleaning up trash outside. This rewards system helps youth develop good habits, like using fewer single use items and cleaning up marine debris. This is something families can do together to help save the ocean, while also flattening the curve since they can practice social distancing while cleaning up their neighborhood. This badging program is open to everyone.  

Additionally, students can become citizen scientists and track how litter changes in their community while we are all stuck at home.

Looking for something for your kiddos to do this summer? You can learn more about the UNCW MarineQuest Turtle Trash Collectors virtual programbook a free virtual program for your network, scouts, student, or family, and sign up for the badging program. Check out what the program will be like, by joining the upcoming Virtual Program: Tuesday, July 21, 2020 @ 10 AM. Register in advance!

Similar to the turtles that UNCW MarineQuest works to conserve, their steadiness and resilience has allowed them to adapt to this “new normal.” The Marine Debris Program is proud to support this creative team.  

For more information, contact

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"How-to" poster.
How to sign up for the Turtle Trash Collectors Digital Badge program. Image credit: Deirdre Scanlon.
Last updated Wednesday, February 17, 2021 2:44pm PST