Inspiring Community Stewardship on Oahu
Community volunteers cleaning up a beach.
The Mālama Learning Center is raising awareness of marine debris through a variety of outreach activities, including cleanups with community volunteers. (Photo Credit: MLC)

The Mālama Learning Center and the NOAA Marine Debris Program are teaming 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) is raising public awareness about marine debris and encouraging changes in behavior through a multifaceted, culturally-focused education and outreach effort. The MLC is working 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 is promoting 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 aims to inspire shifts in the perspectives of community members regarding natural resources; it works 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 includes several separate activities to reach various audiences. First, the MLC is working with the Hawai‘i Department of Education and Hawai‘i State Teachers Association to create a professional development course. This course will train 25 Leeward Oahu teachers and help the teachers in implementing marine debris curricula in their classrooms. The MLC is also working 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 is also leading 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 will provide outreach materials on marine debris, engage with shoppers and their children in the creation of a marine debris mural, and lead hands-on craft activities to repurpose items that would normally go into the trash. The MLC is also installing and monitoring waste, recycling, and compost stations at the market. In addition, the MLC is leading 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 is creating a 10-month Marine Debris Community Outreach Internship for one college student who will build knowledge of the issue and develop leadership skills as they help to implement the education and outreach campaign.

For more information on this project, visit the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.