By: Grace Chon, Pacific Islands Assistant Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
“I’m just a fish
I ain’t got no arms
And all this trash in my home
Can cause me plenty of harm…”
If you listen to Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s (HTY) song “Marine Debris’ No Joke,” you’ll hear the rest of their creative and entertaining lyrics and voices used to educate audiences, including over 17,000 students and teachers from 118 schools, through performances focused on the issue of marine debris and what YOU can do to help stop this problem. Since 1955, HTY has been producing professional theater and drama education programs that aim to make a difference in the lives of young people, families, and educators in the state of Hawai‘i. This year, HTY partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) and many other organizations to produce “H20: The Story of Water and Hawai‘i.” Funded through collaboration with the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, HTY collaborated with the MDP on the marine debris portion, where facts and useful information are presented in an extremely innovative and lively way!
Before attending HTY’s show, teachers were encouraged to give a lesson on marine debris and to lead a beach cleanup, using the collected debris for each student to create a small art piece. If teachers were unable to hold a beach cleanup before attending, marine debris was provided for their class. At the end of HTY’s show, students added their artwork to a larger piece of marine debris art being created at the Honolulu Museum of Art, which will be showcased at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Conservation Congress event in Hawai‘i this September.
Seeing the production and learning about marine debris was meaningful for both the teachers and the students. Teachers commented that:
“The show was perfect for 4th grade. The format was entertaining and kept the kids engaged. The Hawaiian language and mo’olelo (storytelling) really helped the students get a better understanding of how important wai (water/ocean) is.”
“I know that the students were 100% engaged during the entire show! They came back to school and bragged to their friends that it was the best field trip ever! They loved the raps, costumes, plastic trash decorations on set!”
While students exclaimed:
“One thing I learned was about water pollution. I would like to become a water hero so that I can help to clean up the beaches and help the ocean’s wildlife.”
“I loved your play so much! It was the best play I’ve ever seen. I learned that the animals in the ocean might eat plastic that we throw into the ocean. I felt very sad for them! I really think that your H20 crew made me think I should help and pick up plastic from the beaches.”
In addition to their engaging and informative play and as part of the same educational program, HTY also produced H2O Drama Education Workshops. These included 18 workshops hosted in 13 schools, which taught 959 K-4th grade students about marine debris in a hands-on, engaging, and dramatic style. Bringing the subject home in such a way enables students to connect to the issue without getting overwhelmed by this serious problem.
The impact this program has on students and teachers has continued well beyond the stage and can continue to be referenced to help students connect from the classroom to the ocean. HTY says it best –
“Marine debris’ no joke
It’s all man made
It don’t belong in the ocean
Know what I’m sayin’?”