Kierra Howard, of Mount Vernon, recently completed the fall semester of her sophomore year of high school at Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport. Coastal Studies for Girls is a Semester School for 10th-grade girls, according to a news release from the school. The school features rigorous academic courses and an integrated marine science and leadership curriculum based on fieldwork and experiential place-based learning.

While at CSG, Howard completed a scientific research project examining the role of salt marshes in absorbing microplastic pollution. Howard and her research team visited four local salt marshes from Scarborough to Brunswick, to test microplastic abundance in the salt marsh sediment. They used sediment cores to collect samples, and counted microplastic abundance using filtration and microscopy.

Howard presented her research results in a public forum held at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland. The title of her presentation was Microplastics in Local Salt Marshes.

In addition to producing original marine research during her semester at Coastal Studies for Girls, Howard also completed a semester-long leadership course, earned honors credits in Literature, History, Math, and Foreign Language and traveled with her classmates on a 10-day expedition along the Maine coast and islands.

Each semester, Coastal Studies for girls accepts 20 girls from across the country to live in the farmhouse on the shores of Casco Bay. Together they create a community of engaged learners dedicated to observation, inquiry, connection and action.

Howard returned to Maple Tree Community School this spring to continue her sophomore year.

For more information about Coastal Studies for Girls, visit

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