2016 theme:
Making Meaning of
Ocean Pollution

We invite middle and high school students from around the world to participate in the 2016 Ocean Awareness Student Contest! The theme is Making Meaning out of Ocean Pollution, and it challenges you to research, explore, interpret, and say something meaningful about the connections between human activities and the health of our oceans.

This year, we challenge you to focus on ONE type of ocean pollution and “make meaning” of it through art, poetry, prose, or film. We would encourage you to connect it with your own life, your own local community, or something else that is personally meaningful to you, but what’s most important is to pick a topic that inspires and motivates you.

This is an interdisciplinary contest that weaves together ocean awareness, creativity, and advocacy. Advocacy means taking a stand for something you believe in. It requires problem-solving skills, assertiveness, and most of all, knowing when to call the world to action.

While learning from science, history, and personal experience will inform your entry, there is no “right” way to do meaningful advocacy. Use your creativity to make art, poetry, prose, or films that inspire and empower a new generation of ocean stewardship!

Everything you need to know for the 2016 contest is on this page, so please read it carefully! Download a printable version>



1. Research.
Use our website to find resources and inspiration (below). Do research on your own, ask tough and complex questions, think about the way science and society helps you interpret the theme, and start building your case for ocean advocacy.

2. Create.
Interpret the theme to create your own work of art, writing, poetry, or film that advocates for ocean stewardship. Make sure you've met all the requirements for your category (see "categories" below).

3. Submit.
To enter the contest, submit both your work and reflection. Entries are due by June 13, 2016, at 11:59pm EST.



  • Middle School
    6th-8th grade, or International or Homeschool Equivalent
  • High School
    9th-12th grade, or International Equivalent


  • An Individual
    This means that you are the sole creator of your submission
  • A Group
    Groups can be of unlimited size, but you must provide the names of each group member.  There will be one group leader who will be the contact person for the group, and prizes will be awarded to the group as a whole




All visual interpretations of the prompt are welcome in this category — painting, drawing, prints, sculpture, textile, photography, and much more are all welcome.



All pieces of written and spoken poetry which interpret the prompt are acceptable in this category, whether just a single poem or a collection.



All forms of written interpretations of the prompt except poetry are acceptable in this category. Feel free to write fiction, non-fiction, personal memoirs, analytical essays, nature writing, political advocacy, op-eds or news articles, or any other form of prose.



All types of cinematic interpretations of the prompt are acceptable in this category, from advocacy films to PSAs to short films to newscasts to educational videos and much more.

the reflection

The Reflection helps your audience and the judges understand more about you, your work, and the issue you address. It is like the introduction to a book, or an artists’ statement in a museum. The judges will not lower your score for a poorly written reflection, but writing a good reflection will certainly help the judges understand you and your work better and you will likely do better in the contest!

But why do I have to write about my work, instead of let the work speak for itself?

It’s important to practice talking about your work because it’s one of the hardest but most fundamental skills of being an advocate. People who see your work will likely want to ask questions that only you can answer — the reflection is kind of like an FAQ. Why did you do what you did? How did you create it? What inspired you? What meaning have you made out of your exploration of ocean pollution? Entice people who see your work to look longer, deeper, and most of all to think about the issue you are trying to address.

Reflection Requirements

sponsors and teachers

Each Individual or Group who submits to the contest must have one or more adult sponsors.  Usually, sponsors are teachers, a parent, or a mentor.  We ask each student to have a sponsor so that if we have trouble getting into touch with a student, we have a backup means to contacting them. 

Plus, we think that one of the most important parts of ocean advocacy is building relationships and actually having conversations about ocean issues.  Regardless of how closely the sponsor does or does not work with the student as they prepare their submission, we encourage students and sponsors to use each other to practice talking about ocean pollution and how art, poetry, prose, or film can make a meaningful difference in our world.

We also offer Sponsor Recognition Awards! These awards are nomination-based.  Students, nominate your awesome sponsor by completeing the online form or writing to us at info@fromthebowseat.org and tell us why your sponsor is amazing! Nomination letters should be 250 words or less.

More information for Sponsors and Teachers >


Prizes will be awarded in each of the four categories at both middle school and high school levels:

Grades 9-12
Grades 6-8
Gold Award
Silver Award
Bronze Award
Gold Award
winner's school
10 Honorable
Mention Awards
3 Teacher
Recognition Awards

Additional Prizes Available in 2016

Over the course of the contest, other prizes may become available such as random drawings for scholarships, ability to display pieces in public spaces such as museums or aquariums.  Additional prizes will be listed here as they become available, but the winners of these prizes will be chosen and announced at the same time as the category prizes.

From the Bow Seat Advocacy Prize
Because the contest is meant to inspire the next generation of ocean advocates, we are offering one prize in each age division that demonstrates a powerful, moving, engaging, and original voice of ocean advocacy. The Middle School and High School winner will each receive a $250 cash prize, and an equal amount will be donated to an organization of their choice in their name.

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Prize
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy wishes to award one cash prize of $250 to a high school winner who effectively combines the contest theme and the vision of the Conservancy, which is to increase knowledge of Atlantic white sharks and change public perception to conserve the species and ensure biologically diverse marine ecosystems.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Prizes
The PPC is a global alliance of individuals, organizations, businesses, and policymakers working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, the ocean, and the environment. The PPC will award prizes to six submissions that best exemplify the PPC mission. Submissions will be judged on originality, aesthetics, message, and functionality. The winner(s) will receive the following:

  • High School Winners
    First place: PPC bottle, PPC cup, PPC straw in PPC canvas bag
    Second place: PPC bottle and PPC canvas bag
    Third place: PPC bottle and PPC straw
  • Middle School Winners
    First: PPC bottle, PPC straw in red Chico bag
    Second: PPC bottle and straw
    Third: PPC bottle

naming your files

Please name your file in the following manner:

For example, Michael Jackson submitting photos of his painting would name his files:

And Lupita Ngyong’o submitting her film would name her files:

If you have any questions about your submission, please email info@fromthebowseat.org.


  • All submissions must be received by June 13th, 2016 at 11:59pm EST to be entered into the contest.
  • Entries may be submitted by an individual or group of unlimited size.  If you submit as a group, there must be 1 email point-person, but all the names of the group members must be listed upon registration, and the prize money will be split among the group members.
  • Any student may submit (meaning have their name included in) only one entry per category.  Therefore, a student may have a maximum of four different submissions, one in each category.
  • Entries submitted previously to the FTBS Ocean Awareness Student Contest are not allowed to be submitted for the 2016 contest.
  • All entries must be the students' original work.  While we recognize that existing sources will be used for inspiration and research, FTBS reserves the right to disqualify an entry if we suspect plagiarism.  
  • FTBS reserves the rights for reproduction of submissions and student work to be used as appropriate in all our media outlets.
  • All winners will be notified by email the day before they are publically announced on the website.
  • FTBS promises to run this contest fairly, ethically, and with integrity.


  • Any student in grades 6-8 or the international or homeschool equivalent is eligible for the middle school division.
  • Any student in grades 9-12 or the international or homeschool equivalent is eligible for the high school division.
  • Students from any country may enter. 
  • Students must have one or more adult sponsors – usually your parent or teacher is your sponsor.  Homeschooled students may put down their homeschool teacher’s name.  Please email info@fromthebowseat.org if you are unable to meet this requirement. 
  • As long as you were a high school or middle school student for any amount of time during the Contest (Fall 2015 – June 2016) then you are eligible to enter. 


  • Judging begins immediately after the contest closes.
  • Judges look for entries that address the theme of the contest and meet all of the requirements.
  • Winners will be announced in October of 2016.
  • All judges decisions are final.


We have lots of resources to help you get started including tips and inspiration for students, resources to get started on your research, links to organizations doing advocacy work, and much more!

Selected Student Entries
from past contests:
Joyce Wang
Hyeonwoo Cho
Isabella Kwon
Cindy Tsou
Grace (Hyein) Park
Emma Spies
Se Yeon Choi
Vyusti Kumaar
Kristy Lee
Courtney Fucaloro
Gilberto Arrendono
Savannah Meyer
Christina Chen
Doyeon (Donna) Kim
Juwan Mayes
Hyunjin Lee
Michelle Huang
Timothy Li
Livia Yan
Kayla Kim
Roselene Chen
Sarah Arim Kong
Dafne Murillo
Hyun Sung
Cooper Bodeo-Lomicky
Tristan Ketterer
Amelia Bianchi
Sophie Lee