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MINA completes another successful Schools for Environmental Conservation program

(MINA) — Another successful year for Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance’s Schools for Environmental Conservation or SFEC program came to a close on May 3, 2019 with final presentations and a recognition ceremony held at Hyatt Regency Saipan.

Funded through grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the program has evolved from the first “Environmental Teacher Camp” in 2007 into MINA’s current SFEC model for students and their environmental science teachers and club advisors to promote environmental stewardship in the CNMI. This year’s theme was “Learning About and Actively Addressing Marine Debris,” designed to raise awareness about the crisis of ocean plastics, engage students in educational and field activities, and create a Conservation Action Plan that focuses on the theme.

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Ten student groups from Hopwood Middle School, Tanapag Middle School, Dandan Middle School and Mount Carmel School participated in this year’s SFEC program. The students were engaged in educational activities about the threats to the environment caused by marine debris, and an assignment to develop their own Conservation Action Plan that identified critical threats, sources of the threats, and stakeholders. They then created objectives to address the stresses/sources impacting their target and strategic actions that for implementation on their school campuses or in their villages.

The teams from Mount Carmel School, led by Mrs. Luz Baldazo and Mrs. Eva Villar, conducted various beach cleanups and worked with the community to collect biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials. The non-biodegradable materials were recycled to construct their school’s greenhouse and garden fence, and the biodegradable materials were turned into compost for use as fertilizer for various crops planted in the garden.

Hopwood Middle School’s student team, led by Mrs. Marilyn Mendoza, focused on reducing runoff and soil erosion by installing flower beds throughout their campus through the use of recycled tires and wood.

Another team from Hopwood, led by Ms. Esco Anne Hocog, focused on reducing the amount of water bottles going into the island’s landfill. “We chose to collect water bottles because there is currently no recycling center on island that accepts water bottles,” said one of her students. They created their own campus recycling center and used the collected water bottles to make a mini garden.

Dandan Middle School SFEC students, led by Ms. Judith Castro and Ms. Angela Pinaula, conducted beach and campus cleanups and recorded the different materials collected. Just within campus grounds, they were able to collect 1,773 plastic water bottles within a span of two weeks. The collected materials were turned into art pieces used to support their campus outreach efforts raising awareness of marine debris.

Other school teams, led by Mrs. Beatrice Fatialofa, Tanapag Middle School, Ms. Marseli Frank, Tanapag Middle School, and Ms. Joan Bahillo, Hopwood Middle School, also conducted campus outreach, going into their peers’ classrooms to present on the global and local issues of marine debris, what is being done, and ways we can prevent further trash from entering into our waters.

Other SFEC themes throughout the years have been on climate change, marine protected areas, watersheds, and coral reefs, all designed to bring awareness of the impacts of human activity on our environments and the promotion of stewardship to students, ages 12 to 18.

MINA would like to express their sincere gratitude to the partnering agencies and private partners that helped make this year’s program a success: Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Division of Coastal Resources, Department of Public Works, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Office, Pacific Islands Club, Hyatt Regency Saipan, Fiesta Resort & Spa, Saipan Sea Ventures, and community volunteers.

To learn more about MINA’s School for Environmental Conservation program, visit MINA’s Facebook page, email or call 33-7333 (REEF).