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Complete Guide to Ocean Awareness Contest

Complete Guide to Ocean Awareness Contest

Are you a student interested in environmental studies—maybe even thinking about majoring or minoring in environmental science in college? Get a head start and show your passion for, research on, and knowledge about the topic through Ocean Awareness Contest!
1. What is Ocean Awareness Contest Bow Seat?

The Ocean Awareness Contest is a free art competition for middle and high schoolers, with chances to win cash prizes and scholarships! The contest focuses on raising awareness of climate change and activism for climate justice. Hosted by Bow Seat since 2011, Ocean Awareness Contest is an excellent opportunity for students to express their knowledge and stance on the climate crisis through artistic, creative communication, learn how climate change impacts your family and community, and become advocates for positive change (Ocean Awareness Contest by Bow Seat).

2. Who is eligible to participate in the Ocean Awareness Contest?

The Ocean Awareness Contest is open to students ages 11 through 18, who are enrolled in a middle or high school (or homeschool equivalent). Students don’t have to submit through their school—they can submit directly to the website. While Bow Seat is based in Boston, MA, students from all over the world are invited to enter in the competition! Unlike many U.S.-based competitions, the Ocean Awareness Contest has no limits on students’ nationality, immigration status, or location.

Participants are separated into two divisions. Depending on your age, you submit your artwork into the Junior or Senior Division and only compete with other students in your age range.

Junior Division: Ages 11-14

Senior Division: Ages 15-18

3. When is Ocean Awareness Contest 2024?

For the 2024 season, the Ocean Awareness Contest started accepting submissions on September 5, 2023. The deadline to enter is June 10, 2024, and winners will be announced in November 2024. Another reminder: this contest is free to enter!

You still have almost a month left to enter this year—but even if you miss the deadline, you can still make art and start preparing for next year’s competition with Aralia Education’s class dedicated to Ocean Awareness Contest.

4. How can I enter?

The Ocean Awareness Contest has seven categories based on art mediums. Students can submit up to one piece of artwork per category for seven submissions. Explore the categories below and see which best matches your artistic talents and interests.

Visual Art: Handcrafted

Mediums include Drawing & Illustration, Painting, Sculpture, Land art, Mixed media & collage, Printmaking, Film/Analog photography, Ceramics, Fashion, and Jewelry

Visual Art: Digital

Mediums include Graphic design, Digital illustration, Coding art, GIFs, Digital photography, Data visualization & infographics, 3D modeling, and printing.

View student work in both Visual Art categories.

Creative Writing

Examples include Fictional short stories, Creative nonfiction personal narratives, Blog posts, and Journalistic writing.

View student work in Creative Writing.


Examples include narrative films, live action films, hand-drawn or computer-generated animation, documentaries, and experimental films.

View student work in Film/Video.

Interactive & Multimedia

Mediums include Websites or apps, Social media Campaigns, Games (video games or board games), Installations, Podcasts, TikToks.

View student work in Interactive & Multimedia.

Performing Arts: Music & Dance

Examples include Original compositions, Song parodies, Dance performances

View student work in Performing Arts.

Poetry & Spoken Word

Examples include Free verse, Formal verse, Spoken word poetry

View student work in Poetry & Spoken Word.

The details for submission requirements are below. After reviewing these important details, contact expert teachers at Aralia for competition prep.

5. What is the Ocean Awareness Contest 2024 theme?

While the goal of the contest is to educate the world on climate change and amplify student voices, the Ocean Awareness Contest has a slightly varying theme each year. The 2024 theme is “Tell Your Climate Story.” As stated by Bow Seat, this theme encourages participants to “express personal experiences, insights, or perceptions about the changing climate reality… and to examine your individual responses to our evolving world.”

Read more about the 2024 Ocean Awareness Contest Theme or check out past years’ themes. At the end of this blog, we’ll cover ideas and ways to brainstorm your topic!

6. What are the submission requirements?

Students can submit individual or group work—you can also enter as a class or a club. Submission requirements differ by the artistic medium category you submit to, but each one requires a minimum of 100-word reflection (also known as an artist statement).

Your reflection should answer the following questions:

  • What inspired your work and creative process?
  • Why are you interested in the arts?
  • What feelings did the process of creating (art, writing, film, music, dance, interactive/multimedia) raise for you?
  • What is your message to viewers of your artwork?
  • After researching climate change, what have you learned?
  • Beyond individual actions like recycling, what actions will you collectively engage in with your community to tackle climate change?

The two Visual Arts categories require a progress photo—a past photo showing your work partially completed or a photo of you standing next to your art piece. This is not for judgment purposes but rather for anti-plagiarism verification purposes.

If you referenced or took pieces from another artist’s artwork, include a Works Cited.

The use of Artificial Intelligence tools such as ChatGPT is strictly prohibited.

Bow Seat has very specific submission requirements (see example below), so check the fine print for your specific category!

Ocean Awareness Test submission requirements
7. Are there scholarships from Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest? Why should I participate?

There are many opportunities to win awards and scholarships for participating in the Ocean Awareness Contest! Additionally, winners get to showcase their talents at an exclusive Bow Seat online exhibition.


Cash Prize









(Distinguished) Honorable Mention


Notable Submission

Award Notice

We All Rise Prize Scholarship

  • awards for Black, Indigenous, and/or Latine students in the U.S., in efforts to increase diversity
  • Ten $500 awards, five for the Junior Division and five for the Senior Division
  • In 2022, Asian and Pacific Islander students made up 50% of Ocean Awareness Contest participants. 16% of students of self-identified as Black, Indigenous, and/or Latine—and 34% as white or other (Bow Seat).

Voice of the Sea Award Scholarship

  • Two $500 awards given to spoken word poetry performances—one per Division

Bay State Award Scholarship

  • Massachusetts students only, all submissions from MA participants are automatically entered
  • Nine $100 awards—three per Division

Hometown Award Scholarship

  • Boston, MA students only, eligible only to students needing financial aid
  • Nine $100 awards—three per Division

South Coast, Cape & Island Award Scholarship

  • South Coast of MA, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket students only
  • Four $100 awards—two per Division

(Past) Ocean Soul Award

  • Selected by National Geographic photographer
  • Winner Yerang Park from Seoul, South Korea and Winner Adam Zhang from Beijing, China

Publishing, Art Exhibitions, and Special Opportunities:

In addition to earning cash awards to use towards tuition, your passion, art materials, or anything you choose, winners will also get their artwork exhibited with Bow Seat! This is an excellent opportunity to take your artwork from your drawing table and in front of hundreds of viewers—what a way to amplify your voice for climate justice!

Check out Upcoming Events & Exhibits and read more information on Bow Seat’s Awards.

8. Ocean Awareness Contest Ideas

Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Below are some ideas to help you brainstorm your art piece for Ocean Awareness Contest.

  • Focus on a notable climate activist or environmental scientists you find fascinating/admire. (Check out this piece by Yerang Park 2023)
  • Choose a disaster caused by human-afflicted climate change that devastated a community you care about/connect to.
  • Pick a recent news event (i.e., Japan dumping radioactive waste into the ocean) and state your opinion on the event.
  • Pick an underappreciated or long forgotten but still important event (i.e., the slowly opening U.S. coffin of radioactive waste—from U.S.’s atomic bomb tests during the Cold War—on the ocean floor in Runit Island of the Marshall Islands).
  • Rather than taking the direct route of communication with a lot of statistical numbers, think deeply about how you can use an artistic way to more effectively capture attention and raise awareness. What colors, shapes, tone of voice, etc. can you use to convey emotions?
  • Your art doesn’t have to be full of despair for the dark future of our planet! It can also be appreciative and celebratory of nature and climate scientists’/activists’ hopeful/inspiring efforts to combat the climate crisis.
9. How do I prepare for the Ocean Awareness Contest?

Before you start your research, make sure you extensively go through Bow Seat Resource Studio to gain a comprehensive understanding of what climate change means and its damaging impacts on our Earth.

Can’t think of an issue you’d like to explore? Reflect on how climate change has left noticeable traces in your own life. What’ve you noticed about the difference in seasons this year compared to the last? For example, something clearly noticeable in Aralia Education’s hometown of Boston, we got much more rain and a lot less snow this past winter 2023-2024. Why might this have happened and how does that affect agriculture or shipping routes in Massachusetts?

Check out previous Ocean Awareness Contest 2023 results and 2022 Winners.

10. Get personalized support from Aralia’s award-winning teachers

Aralia Education offers an online class specifically for students competing in the Ocean Awareness Contest under the Creative Writing Category. As you can see in the winners lists above, Aralia has a proven track record of bringing our students to success every year! We exclusively vet teachers who not only have an impressive background of teaching in top-ranking US prep schools but also show genuine, detailed care for our students’ academic and personal growth. This writing competition class is for 13-18-year-old students who want to compete in the Ocean Awareness Contest (under the Creative Writing category), the Foyle Young Poets Competition, and the New York Times Summer Reading Contest. Contact us for more information!

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