By: Grace Chon
As the new Marine Debris Pacific Islands Regional Assistant Coordinator, I bring the world of marine debris into classrooms to create a new awareness of how our lifestyles impact the ocean. This month, my journey started with first through fifth graders at the American Renaissance Academy and first graders at Trinity Christian School on Oahu, Hawai‘i.
The first question I asked each class was “What comes to mind when you think of the ocean?” and many students responded saying fish, honu (turtles), sharks, surfing, and fun! There is no doubt children in Hawai‘i like the ocean. I then asked,“How have humans impacted or affected the ocean?” and these children knew trash and nets were in the ocean and harming our wildlife. The missing link for these students is usually realizing the source of the trash – us.
A mauka to makai (mountains to sea) connection is a common theme in Hawai‘i when teaching about our environment, and after hearing the presentation, students were able to see how their trash can end up in the ocean. They learned their everyday choices make a difference.
After the presentation, the students did several hands-on activities to help them better understand the problems marine debris creates. They pretended to be seals entangled in fishing nets and had to find a way to get free; used sieves to sift out microplastics from sand; explored the collection of marine debris we find on removal missions in Hawai‘i; and made marine debris magnets to remind them of how the daily choices they make impact our ocean.
Educating our next generation of ocean stewards is part of Hawaii’s Marine Debris Action Plan, and it’s an important piece to solving one of the biggest threats our oceans are facing today.