Youth Arts+Media for Plastic Free Waters (YAM4PFW) | UL Innovative Education Award
Finalist

Youth Arts+Media for Plastic Free Waters (YAM4PFW)

Cafeteria Culture (a project of Fund for the City of New York)
New York

YOUTH ARTS+MEDIA for PLASTIC FREE WATERS (YAM4PFW) is an environmental STEaM school/community partnership where students in grades 3-8 take the lead to investigate and design creative solutions for reducing local street and beach litter that contributes to a global plastic marine pollution plight. The program merges youth-led citizen science and civic action with Arts and Media messaging campaigns, providing an urgently needed urban youth-of-color voice to NYC's environmental movement. Students conduct litter surveys, interview neighbors, lead campaigns, and use their own data and personal stories to inform policy and create accessible, local narratives that inspire change.

Judges Comment

“We felt the Youth Art-Media for Plastic Free Waters (YAM4PFW) deserved an honorable mention for their clear recognition of the critical problem of plastics in water and unique approach to creating a solution to that challenge. YAM4PFW provides a model for making an E-STEM issue relevant and tangible to community members. Judges applauded their ability to capture the community’s voices and stories around impacts of litter and pollution in bodies of water surrounding a neighborhood. We felt their connection with the local government and law enforcement as partners was a really cool way to integrate their efforts. The science of plastics is an important and strong part of YAM4PFW’s efforts, which we felt was unique for such a young age group to be exposed to. We were duly impressed with students’ understanding of the issues around plastics and micro-plastics in the water systems – from different plastic types and root causes of plastics in the waterways, to plastics lifecycle. For those without a natural tendency toward science, the art component of the program was a helpful for kids who don’t believe they can excel in STEM-related fields or study. Lastly, judges were impressed by the program’s use of storytelling which we feel is often lacking in the E-STEM world, but clearly is a powerful tool.”