Soundkeeper Policy Manager Alyssa Barton reflects on her experience shaping policy education for our partners at the Maritime High School.

Developing Youth Curriculum

As Soundkeeper’s Policy Program Manager, I want the communities we serve to feel empowered to advocate for a world they want to see. We must work together today to ensure that future generations have a clean and healthy environment. Soundkeeper is expanding its Policy Program to better equip youth with the data, skills, and resources they need to protect and restore Puget Sound. 

In December 2021, I had the opportunity to develop a plastic pollution curriculum alongside Soundkeeper colleagues, and students and teachers at the Maritime High School (MHS). Maritime High School—located in Des Moines, Washington, the state’s 33rd legislative district—connects students with hands-on, project-based learning. It creates access to local maritime careers and opens doors to college.  

Connecting Science and Advocacy

An infographic relating plastic pollution

This winter, Soundkeeper staff brought several MHS classes to local creeks for field research and water quality testing for microplastics. In the classroom, I had the honor to share Soundkeeper’s Advocacy 101 program in a format tailored to a high school freshman curriculum. We discussed the global plastic pollution problem and some of the strategies and policy solutions to address it.

Students wrote and presented a public comment on the topic of their choice. Soundkeeper staff and MHS teachers helped students ID their legislative districts and contact their representatives. They met virtually with WA legislators Tina Orwall, Karen Keiser, Mia Gregerson, Steve Bergquist, and Bob Hasegawa to share microplastic sampling results.

After our sessions, the students continued to engage in various clean-water projects that put their new skills to use. They designed and built Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to collect microplastic particles from nearby waterways. They also learned about the RENEW Act (a bill proposed during the 2022 legislative session which would improve Washington’s recycling system and streamline waste management).  

Students prepared videos, infographics, and social media content about the global plastic pollution problem and released their coordinated campaign across MHS social media channels. In January and February, students participated in a week-long series of public exhibitions to share their projects, results, and the skills they learned. 

Empowering Youth Leaders

I’m proud that the students learned so much, so quickly, and put a wide variety of skills into action! Most adults can’t say they’ve met with their legislators. Now, all the MHS students can say they have. This kind of curriculum includes many different modes of learning: lecture, hands-on field work, data collection and research, public speaking, critical problem solving, design thinking, and more. It equips youth with a solid foundation to deeply engage with environmental issues over time. Soundkeeper’s advocacy, community outreach, and education aims to empower future leaders to help shape our communities and environment today.  

We talked to legislators about the Extended Producer Responsibility [bill] where the producers will be responsible for these microplastics being put out into the environment if this bill gets passed. We really wanted to lobby the legislators and get our government to know about the bill. 

–Emily, MHS student  

“My favorite part of the project was actually the legislative aspect. I really enjoyed tapping into the state legislature and learning how that runs. It might be a future career path for me. 

–Zane, MHS student