frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between the Ocean Awareness Student Contest and the Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition?

We have two different programs for teens:

1. The Ocean Awareness Student Contest is our international Contest that accepts visual art, poetry, prose, film, and music submissions. The 2018 theme is Our Oceans in a Changing Climate.

2. The Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition challenges students (U.S. only) to design and lead a campaign in their school or community that creatively educates others and inspires action to reduce or prevent marine debris. Campaign examples may include: hosting a film/art/lecture series; creating a community mural; organizing a beach, river, or lake cleanup; and much more!


entering the contest

How do I enter the Contest?

First, please review all contest details and rules. When you’re ready, you can enter the contest using the online submission form.

Can I mail in my submission?

No. We only accept submissions using our online submission platform.

Is there a fee to enter the Contest?

No! Entering the contest is completely free of charge.

When does the Contest open and close?

The Contest is open throughout the U.S. academic year, so it opens in the fall and closes when school finishes in the spring. The 2018 Contest deadline is Monday, June 18 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time (ET).


Who can submit to the Contest?

Any student age 11-18 who is enrolled in middle or high school while the Contest is open. For example, if you were in 12th grade from September 2017 to June 2018, then you would be eligible for the 2018 Contest.

Should I enter the Junior or Senior division?

Select the division based on your age on June 18, 2018, the Contest deadline. Students age 11-14 are eligible for the Junior division; those age 15-18 are eligible for the Senior division. For example, if you submit your poem in April 2018 when you are 14 years old but will be turning 15 in May 2018, you should enter the Senior division.

I don’t live in the U.S. Can I still enter the Contest?

Yes! The Contest is open to teenagers age 11-18 worldwide.

Do I need my parents’/guardians’ permission to enter?

If you are between 13 and 18 years of age, be sure to obtain your parent’s or legal guardian’s permission before you send any information about yourself (such as your name, email address, etc.) to Bow Seat or anyone else over the Internet. If you are under the age of 13, your parent or legal guardian must review and sign the Bow Seat Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Privacy Notice and Consent Form and you must upload it with your submission.

I am a homeschool student. Am I eligible to enter?

Yes! Please enter the division based on your age as of the Contest deadline.

The Contest ends in June, but I graduate in May. Can I still submit?

Yes! As long as your time enrolled in school and the current Contest overlap, then you are eligible to enter. Please choose the age division according to your age.

I am in my first year at college/university, can I submit work that I made as a high school student?

No. You must be enrolled in middle or high school in order to submit to the Contest. If you started college/university any time before the Contest closes in June 2018, then you cannot submit to the 2018 Contest.

I don’t live by the ocean. Can I still submit work?

Yes! We are all connected to the ocean, whether you live hundreds of miles inland or on the coast.

submission requirements

What kind of submissions are eligible for the Contest?

We accept art, poetry, prose, film, and music submissions. Each category is judged separately, and each category will have Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention winners.

How many pieces can I enter into the Contest?

You may submit one entry per category, for a maximum of five submissions. For example, you may submit one art entry and one film entry, but you may not submit two different art entriesr

Do I have to enter the Contest as part of a school project?

No. While many teachers assign the Contest as a school project, most participants take part on their own with support from an adult sponsor.

What are the requirements for each category?

Please review the requirements under the “Categories” section on the Contest information page.

What language should my submission be in?

In order to be considered by our judges, your submission and accompanying written reflection must be in English.

Can someone else sing/perform my original music composition?

No. Participants must perform their own music.

Should I submit my spoken poetry video in the Poetry or Music category?

Please submit your spoken word piece in the Poetry category.

Can I go over the photo/page/video length requirements?

No. We have a policy of making sure that entries are judged fairly across each category, and therefore we require that you fit your entry within the photo/page/length limits.

We appreciate the work that you are putting into your entry, but we want to challenge you to try to succinctly communicate your ideas within the given limits. Once you submit to our Contest, feel free to publish your work elsewhere at whatever length you wish!

Can I submit work about something other than the Contest theme?

Submissions are judged in large part on how well they address the theme of the Contest. Every year, we select the theme based on issues that are timely and relevant and for which we would like to raise public consciousness around.

Why do I need to write a reflection?

The written reflection helps your audience and the judges understand more about you, your work, and the issue you are addressing. It is like the introduction to a book, or an artist’s 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! Click here for written reflection requirements.

Do I have to write a bibliography?

If you use ideas, facts, quotes, or existing media in your entry or reflection that are not your own, we ask you to cite those sources (in any style). That means you must cite any facts or information that you did not discover, create, or come up with yourself.

A bibliography shows our judges that you did research on the topic, and your arguments are stronger if they are supported with verifiable and pertinent evidence. Creating a bibliography helps students build research, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Ultimately, we want to challenge all of our participants to refine their communication skills so that they can become more persuasive and powerful advocates for our oceans.

Will I ever need to ship my original work to the Contest?

No, you will never be required to ship us your original work. However, we recommend saving your original work until the winners of the Contest are announced, just in case there is an issue receiving the files you submitted using our online platform.

If I submit my work to the Ocean Awareness Student Contest, can I also submit it to other contests?

Yes! We do not compete for the exclusive rights to your work because 1) you own your work, and 2) we think your work should be spread as far as possible into the rest of the world. Our oceans need as loud a voice as we can give them, so please send your work far and wide!

What other information do I need to submit to the Contest?

Once you have prepared your submission files and your reflection, we will ask you for some personal information (including your name, email, and school), and information for an adult sponsor. It is important that you provide a valid email address so that we may contact you. If you provide a school email address as your primary contact information, please provide an additional, alternative email address as well.


Who can be my sponsor?

Your sponsor can be any adult: your parent, legal guardian, teacher, coach, mentor, etc. You must provide the contact information of your adult sponsor on the submission form, and your sponsor will receive email notifications about your submission.

I’ve been asked to be a sponsor. What are the responsibilities?

Whether you are a teacher who assigned this Contest as a class project, or a parent helping your child explore their creative potential, or an adult who simply was asked to be a sponsor for a student submitting on their own, your responsibilities are simple. All we need is to be able to contact you in case we have issues getting in touch with your student(s). When your student(s) submits their work, they will be asked to give your name and email address. You will receive a confirmation email once they submit, so that you can have it on record as well.

If you want to take it a step further, we encourage you to use your relationship with your student as a way for you both to practice talking about issues facing our oceans, and how the arts are a powerful and meaningful way to be an advocate. One of the most fundamental (and most difficult!) skills of being an ocean advocate is learning how to overcome the fear of speaking out. However you choose to do it, we encourage you to help each other practice talking about how our lives connect to the ocean and how the arts can make a meaningful difference in our world.

I am a teacher with many submissions from my class. Can I submit on their behalf?

Yes. You may create a single account under your name and submit multiple entries on behalf of your class, but you must submit separate entries for each individual student, unless they are participating as a group.

How do I nominate a sponsor for a Sponsor Recognition Award?

We offer Sponsor Recognition Awards of $750 to sponsors who help change the lives of their students and change the world for the better. These awards are nomination-based, and students can nominate sponsors using this online form.

winners and awards

What award could I win by submitting to the Contest?

Awards will be awarded in each of the categories in both the Junior and Senior divisions. You can find award informtation on the Contest information page.

How is the Contest judged?

A panel of judges reviews the submissions, and each submission is anonymously evaluated by at least three judges. Our judges are artists, poets, writers, filmmakers, and ocean scientists. Submissions are judged based on: artistic voice, originality, and imagination; craftsmanship, including quality, technique, attention to detail, and accuracy; how well they address the theme of the Contest; and meeting the Contest submission requirements.

When will the winners be announced?

The 2017 Contest winners will be announced in January 2018. The 2018 Contest winners will be announced in January 2019. Winners and their sponsors will be emailed before we announce results publicly.

Why does it take so long to reveal the winners?

Judging begins immediately after the Contest ends, and we take the time to fairly judge each and every entry to the Contest. In 2017, we received over 2,700 submissions and our team of judges put in over 2,000 hours of cumulative work watching your films; viewing your art; and reading your poetry, prose, and reflections. We know you’re anxious to hear Contest results. We take an enormous amount of pride in the amount of care we put into the Contest, and we hope that you can be patient with us as we continue to do so!

How will I receive my award?

If you are a winner, you will receive an email notification from us giving you specific instructions on how to claim your award.

What should I expect as a winner after the awards are announced?

We believe that your work should be shared with the public in order to amplify your voices on behalf of the ocean. We will do our best over the course of the next year to celebrate you as winners by coordinating art exhibits, film showings, as well as guest publishing of poetry and writing in various outlets through our partners.

What happens if my work is shared on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?

We will always credit your work to you, but we’d love it even more if we could directly tag you in our post! Please follow us on social media so we can tag you, and join the conversation by using the hashtag #IAmOceanChange. Once your work is posted, please share it or repost it so that your friends and followers can see how much we appreciate the awesome work you are doing. Connect with us @fromthebowseat!


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