Malama I ke Kai: Kauai Youth Learn About Coral Disease, Bleaching, and Taking Care

by Scott Bacon (EOR Coordinator – Kauai)

On Friday October 4th, 2013, Katie Thompson (DAR Education Specialist) and I participated in a science education event for the Waimea Canyon Middle School 8th grade class.  This event engaged approximately 140 8th grade students in a hands-on scientific learning experience.  The theme of the event was “Malama I ke Kai”, meaning “take care of the ocean”.  Mr. Yamagata, the school’s science chair, has been teaching the students about the negative effects of marine debris and what they can do to prevent and help reduce these impacts.

The students began their day by removing marine debris from a 1/2 mile section of the Waimea coastline.  Then, they recorded the types and

Scott Bacon, Kauai EOR Coordinator and Founder of Malama Na Apapa

Scott Bacon, Kauai EOR Coordinator and Founder of Malama Na Apapa

quantities of debris collected and will analyze this data when they return to class next week.

Following the debris removal, the students broke into smaller groups of 15 – 20 students and visited six marine related educational stations.  The students had the opportunity to learn the Eyes of the Reef (EOR) basics at Malama Na Apapa’s  station, which is the coral reef conservation nonprofit that I founded (  My presentation covered what coral is, zooxanthellae symbiosis, environmental conditions for healthy coral, the importance of coral reefs, biotic and abiotic stressors, and how to identify differences between healthy coral and discolored, diseased, and bleached coral.  The students were interested in learning how to identify coral diseases and are excited to go snorkeling to observe the corals.

This was an effective outreach project as it increased interest in the EOR program among many students who are avid spear fishermen, surfers, snorkelers, and beachgoers.  Having the opportunity to bring awareness of the importance of the coral reefs and how it affects their lives directly was invaluable.  Many of these students would most likely not have the opportunity otherwise to be exposed to the EOR training.

Hopefully, it will lead to more involvement with Kauai’s local youth in coral reef preservation.