Educator's Guide to Marine Debris


Marine debris is a problem that plagues coastlines around the world. By definition, marine debris is anything man-made that ends up in marine environments. 80% of debris comes from land-based sources, traveling to an aquatic environment via stormwater runoff, wind, or other means. In the past, marine debris was primarily considered an eyesore. Today, research has shown that debris also seriously impacts marine habitats, wildlife, human health and safety, navigation, and the economy.

This easy-to-use guide is designed to provide maximum flexibility for educators in both form and informal settings. It may be used as a standalone teaching tool, or to supplement lessons in other areas. This guide includes information about marine debris and useful lessons for students in grades K-12, with a focus on STEM objectives. These engaging lesson plans are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

This guide is based on NOAA’s “Turning the Tide on Trash: A Learning Guide on Marine Debris” and was published in 2014. To access presentations referenced in this guide and for additional information, visit or our junior website, We continue to update this guide with new lessons and resources. If you used this guide or any of our education resources, please provide us with feedback by emailing Nina Quaratella at


This guide is also available in Spanish at