The programme is intended primarily for high school students, and gives them the opportunity to contribute to citizen science by analyzing marine litter distribution and composition, and determining its likely origin.

The programme is divided into three stages of activities. “Firstly, students can get aquainted with the topic of marine litter at school, and select a beach on which to carry out the practical research”, Piret Kuldna, Senior Expert at SEI Tallinn and one of the authors of the study programme, explained.

“Then, during the outdoor study day, litter from the sea and the beach is collected by small groups of students. Finally, the collected results are analyzed and presented within the groups, followed by a discussion either at the end of the study day or later in school.”

SEI has created a number of programme materials, including instructions for teachers, worksheets for students, and a marine litter image bank with examples of different litter types. Several useful links are also provided to help students and teachers get acquainted with the topic of marine litter before the study trip to the beach.

At the seaside, students have the opportunity to explore the composition of marine litter and learn about its most common types and sources. The presence of both visible and micro-plastic waste is analyzed, the latter using a microscope. In order to carry out the research, schools need to provide students with garbage bags and bins. Students should bring their own gloves and they can also be encouraged to bring their smartphones, to mark the litter’s exact locations and take pictures.

On completion of the outdoor study day and subsequent analysis, students can enter the data they’ve amassed into an electronic database. This way, the information collected by schools during the citizen science programme provides valuable data for students to use in their research.

The marine litter study programme is available for free use in English and in Estonian.

Citizen science programme for studying marine litter on beaches

Download the 16-page document.

Citizen science programme "Nature and Origin of Marine Litter"