Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs (Bow Seat) empowers youth through imagination and creation, with the mission of engaging them in ocean conservation and advocacy through the arts.
Bow Seat’s flagship educational program, the Ocean Awareness Contest, invites middle and high schoolers to explore the connections between human activities and the health of our ocean through visual art, writing, music, film, and multimedia. With themes such as endangered species, plastic pollution, and climate change, the Contest has been at the forefront of introducing critical ocean issues to youth. More than 13,000 students from all 50 U.S. states and 106 countries have participated, and we have awarded almost $400,000 in scholarships to Contest winners and the educators who support their participation and encourage them to be active stewards of our blue planet. The Contest is open from September to June every year.
Art-making is a powerful way for program participants to explore knowledge and feelings about environmental issues, find and share their voice, and shape their attitudes about their own power to make a difference. According to participant surveys, 73% of students reported that the Contest increased their ocean literacy; 66% stated that it impacted their worldview or behavior (e.g., reducing plastic use); and 84% reported that creating something (i.e., art, writing, music, films) helped them personally connect with environmental issues. In written reflections, students noted how participating in the Contest opened their eyes to environmental problems and inspired them to advocate for change beyond themselves. Results from educator feedback surveys corroborated these findings, demonstrating that the Contest is an effective tool for teaching students about ocean issues, applying classroom learning to real-world problems, and building students’ research and communication skills.
Bow Seat showcases student work in our online gallery, and through exhibitions, film screenings, publications, social media, and partner initiatives. This provides a special opportunity for teens to display their individual creative skills while demonstrating the strength of their collective voices, bringing awareness of ocean issues to wider audiences. Bow Seat also collaborates with schools and community organizations to combine ocean literacy and the arts in classrooms and afterschool programs, and to ensure that youth voice is included in environmental campaigns and conversations.