Each year, educators in the Aquarium’s Education Department recognize teachers and schools who are working to promote an ethic of ocean conservation with our Ocean Stewardship Awards.

These ocean protectors are taking concrete steps to help protect our blue planet.

We received many fantastic nominations, and we have been thrilled hearing about all the amazing work taking place across New England. But we had to choose winners. This year, we honored our winners at our World Oceans Day event on June 10. We would like to thank everyone who joined us for the celebration and to all those who took the time to complete a nomination.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

Teacher Category


ocean stewardship award winner

Sybil Grayko
Claiborne Pell Elementary School, Newport, RI

Sybil always leads her students in meaningful marine conservation projects. In this particular project, Sybil educated her second-graders about the dangers of one-time use plastics. 

Her students calculate how many straws the students in their school use on a daily basis. Her students determine that in one day alone, their school used an average of 2,000 single-use plastic straws. Once her students realized the enormity of their school’s–and district’s–contribution to the problem of marine pollution, they realized that they needed to take action. Sybil guided her students in writing persuasive letters to members of the school committee and the council asking them to ban the use of plastic straws in their district. The culmination of this project was when her second-graders made a petition for their cause before the town council at one of its meetings. As a result of their advocacy, the district no longer uses plastic straws.

Sybil helped her students realize they have a voice. Just because they are second-graders does not mean they cannot initiate change in the world. She helped her students discover their power, while making a lasting contribution to marine conservation.

Honorable Mentions

group holding ocean stewardship award certificate

Rachel Rex
Gloucester High School, Gloucester, MA

In addition to teaching environmental issues, marine biology, and ecology, Rachel has been working with Mass Audubon on a project “Seeking Relief from Sea Level Rise: Student Mapping and Leadership Initiative.” Seventy-five students from Gloucester High School participated in the program, which involved analyzing maps and using online tools to identify areas in the community most vulnerable to flooding.

They also completed field studies to determine storm-surge levels and how close they would come to the high school. The project culminated with a multimedia presentation followed by a “Climate Café” discussion. Students, faculty, community members, and environmentalist were present and contributed to the discussions in considering various solutions.

group holding ocean stewardship award certificate

Thom Smith
Kearsarge Regional School District, New London, NH

Thom works to bring creative and innovative learning to the classroom, as well as making sure all his students experience the rocky show each year. He wants students to see their connection to the ocean. Recently, Thom took a sabbatical year to develop, write, and publish a full Rocky Shore Marine Science Curriculum. He created a wonderful Next Generation Science Standards and Ocean Literacy Principle-linked curriculum. Not only did he create this curriculum, he has made it available free to all educators (it is posted on the web if you want to take a look!)

School Group Category


group holding ocean stewardship award certificate

Frank H. Harrison Middle School
Yarmouth, MA

Teacher: Morgan Cuthbert

The town of Yarmouth is known for its clamming heritage. However, with the introduction of invasive species, the clam population has been declining. Working with the Town of Yarmouth and the University of Maine’s Downeast Institute, Harrison Middle School’s science classes are working to revive the clam population. Teachers have worked together to design a curriculum focused on systems utilizing their town’s heritage. Students and teachers have wrote a grant to build an upweller in which they grow juvenile clams until they are large enough to be seeded in the local mudflats. Students go out and work with the juvenile clams as well as study population data at local beaches. Harrison Middle School staff are teaching students about conservation by encouraging them to be conservationists themselves.

Honorable Mention

Plastic Pollution Preventers
Portland, ME

The Plastic Pollution Preventers is a campaign launched by eighth-graders Lainey Randall and Addie Farmer. These girls launched a campaign to raise awareness and inspire action around marine debris in their community. Using NOAA’s Marine Debris Tracker mobile application, Lainey and Addie set a goal to have the community collect and log 5,000 pieces of trash in one month. They communicated to their community through local television news segment, wrote a blog for the Natural Resources Council of Maine website, presented to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and testified before the Portland City Council. The girls hosted a final East End Beach Cleanup, surpassing their collection goal with 8,000 logged items. Lainey and Addie are continuing their work to educate Portland by presenting a new initiative to teach Portland elementary school students about marine debris at the 2018 International Youth Summit on Ocean Plastic Pollution.

Learn about past Ocean Stewardship Award winners here.

Nomination period for the 2019 Awards will open in January 2019. Check back here for more information.