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A global educational platform that empowers youth to connect, create, and communicate for our blue planet through the arts.

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest

location_on Boston, United States
This multidisciplinary program engages students in exploring critical ocean conservation issues through visual art, writing, music, film, and multimedia. It is a platform for teens to share their questions, concerns, and visions in a global discussion; a community of like-minded activists, thinkers, and creators; and a stepping-stone into the world of advocacy.
Milan C., 11 (California, USA)
This program has been a great opportunity for me to become passionate about a real issue plaguing our world. I hope my writing inspires others to recognize their roles as the keepers of the ocean.

Milan C., 11 (California, USA)


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Key figures

Innovation Overview

Target Group
13 000
Updated on January 28th, 2021
about the innovation

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest

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.


See this innovation in action

"In Our Hands" by Ely German, 16 (Houston, Texas)
2017 Gold Award, Film
Student Art Exhibitions
Bow Seat partners with aquariums, museums, nature centers, and other organizations to host art exhibitions and film screenings featuring student work, with the goal of inspiring broader awareness, dialogue, and action around ocean conservation.
"Save the World" by Lilly Chertock, 14 (Venice, California)
2018 Gold Award, Music
"Plastic Whale" by Dafne Murillo, 14 (Lima, Peru)
2014 Gold Award, Art
"My Second Home" by Rose Ho, 18 (Valley Park, Missouri)
2018 Gold Award, Film
"All That's Left" by Gwenan Walker, 18 (New Canaan, Connecticut)
2019 Gold Award Winner, Art
Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs: Creativity in Conservation
At Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, we believe that the creative arts are a vital tool to learn about issues impacting our environment, connect more deeply with nature, and bring communities together to care for our blue planet. Our programming teaches ocean conservation through creative investigating and making.
"sea butterflies" by Cynthia Lu, 16 (Belmont, Massachusetts)
2019 Gold Winner, Poetryin English, pteropod translates to wing-foot, sea snail, sea butterfly. too small to press against your ear and listen for the sea, though they are remnants of a past where armor was not yet needed only translucent skin and calcium-glass shells leaving the ocean’s heart visible for admirers. now, in any language, she pleads for a god that does not crumble in our fires, choke on our ashes because like any good mother, the ocean cannot carry the smoky exhales of our mistakes in her belly forever. in chemistry, combustion implies bright, spontaneous destruction but no, there is a softer, quieter death for the pteropods— acid dissolving their homes, shells cracked and cloudy as if the beach was strewn with broken mirror shards all the better to distort reality. they have neither wings nor feet for escape— instead, are condemned to drift in perpetuity. start there, a fingertip on the pearly center of its shell then trace the effects outwards: to the fish, then seals, then whales all linked in an unraveling web, like a fisherman’s net. There is no such thing as a closed system in this world: the same salt that swirls through the ocean runs in our blood. in French, seafood translates to fruit of the sea: imagine white napkins and silver knives empty harvest and barren orchards. teach your diners that rare does not mean valuable, it means loss. in each generation of sand-footed children, open their eyes and lift their voices because these sea butterflies, and oceans and earth of ours are not capable of metamorphosis by themselves.
"Rising Seas" by John Paul Rabusa, 18 (Phoenix, Arizona)
2019 Gold Award Winner, Music
"Our Future" by Jane Zhang, 13 (Vancouver, Canada)
2019 Gold Award Winner, Art
2020 Ocean Awareness Contest, Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis
A call for young artists, conservationists, makers, thinkers, and activists who are concerned about the future of our blue planet. Join thousands of youth around the world in our annual program that raises awareness about the climate crisis and potential solutions, uplifts youth voices for ocean conservation, and inspires hope and action through art, creative media, and storytelling.


Achievements & Awards

April 2020
Innovation page created on
July 2019
National Marine Educators Association: Outstanding Organization Award
May 2019
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs: Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education
May 2019
Massachusetts Marine Educators: Certificate of Appreciation
November 2018
New England International Donors Global Changemaker Honoree: Linda Cabot, Bow Seat Founder & President
April 2018
John Muir Association: Nonprofit Conservation Award
April 2018
Project Green School: Sustainability Award
October 2017
Loggerhead Marinelife Center Blue Ambassador of the Year: Linda Cabot, Bow Seat Founder & President
June 2017
Gulf of Maine Council Visionary Award: Linda Cabot, Bow Seat Founder & President

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Review & Research
Review the 2020 Contest theme, Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis; understand the competition rules; learn about climate change; and explore inspirational media to get your creative juices flowing!
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Your voices, visions, and stories of hope are needed to help transform the world. What will you create?
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Submission is free via our online portal. The deadline for the 2020 Ocean Awareness Contest is June 15, 2020.
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Connect & Take Action
Continue using your creative voice to speak up for our blue planet!
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