Inspiring Community Stewardship on Oahu

Community volunteers cleaning up a beach.

The Mālama Learning Center and the NOAA Marine Debris Program teamed up to tackle marine debris through community outreach in Leeward (West) Oahu.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Pacific Islands

Project Dates: September 2015 - April 2017

Who is Involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, the Mālama Learning Center (MLC) raised public awareness about marine debris and encouraged changes in behavior through a multifaceted, culturally-focused education and outreach effort. The MLC worked with numerous local partners on the project including: the Hawai‘i Department of Education, the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, Outside Hawaii, the City and County of Honolulu Adopt-a-Park Program, the Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Leeward Community College, University of Hawai‘i West Oahu, local high schools, and the Leeward Oahu community.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Mālama Learning Center promoted environmental stewardship and marine debris prevention through education and outreach in Leeward Oahu. This community of predominantly Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders is an impoverished area undergoing rapid growth and development, and thus producing more and more waste. This project aimed to inspire shifts in the perspectives of community members regarding natural resources; it worked to draw attention to how the community is adversely affected by the current “throw-away society” mentality, by making the connection between marine debris and the strong cultural ties of the community to the ocean.

This education and outreach campaign included several separate activities to reach various audiences. First, the MLC worked with the Hawai‘i Department of Education and Hawai‘i State Teachers Association to create a professional development course. This course trained 25 Leeward Oahu teachers and helped the teachers implement marine debris curricula in their classrooms. The MLC also worked with local high school students and Outside Hawaii to create several short videos and a public service announcement which will be repeatedly aired statewide by Outside Hawaii over the course of at least six months.

The Mālama Learning Center also led several activities to reach the residents of Leeward Oahu, including monthly participation at a community farmer’s and green market. At the market, the MLC provided outreach materials on marine debris, engaged with shoppers and their children in the creation of a marine debris mural, and led hands-on craft activities to repurpose items that would normally go into the trash. The MLC also installed and monitored waste, recycling, and compost stations at the market. In addition, the MLC led monthly workdays to pick up litter and marine debris and to plant native plants at Piliokahe Beach Park with local community volunteers as well as middle school, high school, and college groups. Finally, the MLC created a 10-month Marine Debris Community Outreach Internship for one college student who built knowledge of the issue and developed leadership skills as they helped to implement the education and outreach campaign.