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

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

We received many fantastic nominations, and we loved reading about all the amazing work taking place across New England. But we had to select a winner. We honored our 2019 winners at our World Oceans Day event on June 9. 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 teacher Winner William Hurley

William Hurley
Melrose High School, Melrose, MA

Dr. William Hurley teaches marine science and is extremely passionate about the subject. At the beginning of his course, many of his students are not well aware of the significant importance of the ocean to the health of the planet, but by the end, their awareness increases and many students embark on activities to help the ocean. Several of his students have gone on to major in Marine Sciences in college.

This year, Dr. Hurley received a grant to design and build a large wave tank so his students could better understand waves and their effects on coastal environments, specifically looking at man-made and natural coast lines. The wave tank is one of the few in the nation at a high school level. The students presented the results from this endeavor at the New England Ocean Summit Educational Consortium in Boston in November 2018.

Along with the wave tank, Dr. Hurley has developed many hands-on activities to teach his students about ocean conservation. Some of the activities focus on bycatch and the techniques to reduce it through problem solving and design skills and using passive sampling devices to study aquatic organisms and compare the year-to-year data. He also teaches an extensive unit on Ocean Pollution, having his students discover ways to get involved and minimize ocean pollution.

Honorable Mentions

Ocean Stewardship Awards winner honorable mention Kate McCaffery

Kate McCaffery
Main Street Elementary School, Exeter, NH

All of our teacher nominations are special, but it is always meaningful to receive a nomination from a parent. In Kate’s second-grade classroom, students do a project-based learning unit focusing on the environment. The kids learn what plastics do to the ocean and ocean life.

Last year, the class was able to convince several local restaurants to skip the straw and they were successful getting straws out of the cafeteria. This year, the class took on three different projects: composting at the school, getting Styrofoam out of local restaurants, and banning plastic bags from local grocery stores.

Kate has supported them in their research, helped them set up meetings, and encouraged them as they work toward their goal. The kids have worked hard writing letters to the select board, state senator, and local representatives. Kate is not only educating students about the environmental struggles with the world we live in, but also how to leave it a little greener than you found it.

Ocean Stewardship Awards winner honorable mention Tish Manning

Tish Manning 
Captain Albert Stevens Elementary School, Belfast, ME

Tish is instrumental in guiding the Belfast Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle students (our school group winners) in all of their endeavors. Mrs. Manning works with the students in the BRRRR group on a weekly basis. She excites the students with her enthusiasm and spends many of her free hours assisting BRRRR with community awareness and education projects.

Mrs. Manning is invaluable in their quest to help the children in their small community realize that every little bit can make a huge difference. She has been instrumental in taking students to the Marine and Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, ME, where they conducted field research into microplastics in their local waters. Tish has invested herself professionally and personally in helping to educate her students and community on the tremendous importance of ocean preservation.

School Group Category


Tish Manning 2019 School Group Winner

Belfast Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle
School, Captain Albert Stevens Elementary School

Teacher, Tish Manning
Belfast, ME

Belfast Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle (BRRRR) are kindergarten to fifth-grade students who raise awareness about ocean pollution, remind others why they should care, and provide ways to help. The group follows three steps to help share their mission:

  1. State issues through commercials, posters, and announcements about the effects of plastic on the ocean.
  2. Inspire others to care through celebrating ocean animals such as sea turtles and whale sharks, and celebrating World Oceans Day to kick off their “No Straws” Campaign.
  3. Make a difference by offering strategies everyone can use.

The group even presented a plan to the school board and town manager to replace plastic silverware with metal utensils, remove plastic straws, and have community members donate reusable napkins. They also worked with their Food Corp staff to start composting. The entire school population had the opportunity to weigh their waste and compare as they strived for zero-waste lunches.

Formed two years ago, this group has had an amazing impact on their entire school and its impact on the environment. It has also helped to empower students to make changes on their own.

Honorable mention

Stratton Green Team 2019 School Group Honorable Mention Ocean Stewardship Awards

Stratton Green Team
Arlington, MA

The students of the Stratton Green Team have been very busy in their first year as an organization. The kickoff event for the team was a school lunch composting program that also switched their Styrofoam trays to compostable trays.

Since the kickoff, the team has worked on a pollinator garden, hosted bike and pedestrian safety classes for all grades, created a Monarch Butterfly WayStation, and much more! This group of students has spread their enthusiasm to the rest of the school as well. For example, the third-grade classrooms worked with their teachers to propose to Arlington Town Meeting that all schools should have solar panels and they all worked up to create arguments to share.

Another great school group, empowering students to take charge and make a change.

Congratulations again to all our award winners!

We hope everyone can find inspiration from these wonderful teachers and students, and continue to protect our blue planet!

Learn about past Ocean Stewardship Award winners here. The nomination period for the 2020 Awards will open in January 2019. Check back here for more information.