From Ridge to Reef: Protecting Guam’s Marine Life Through Student Efforts

Posted Wed, 09/21/2022 - 11:00

Guest blog by: Destiny Paige Tumbucon, Website Representative for the Ocean Guardian School Program at Simon A. Sanchez High School

With its crystal clear waters and rich coral reefs, Guam is undoubtedly a hidden paradise in the Pacific ocean. It is home to five protected marine preserves teeming with aquatic animals and plants. Regardless of where you are in Guam, you are always five miles or less from the ocean. Considering the thousands of tourists and residents, it is no surprise that the marine environment is extremely vulnerable. Everything on the island is connected, from the mountain ridges to the lively reefs, meaning that even the tiniest actions can offset the entire ecosystem.

With the support of our advisors, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program, we were able to launch an Ocean Guardian School Program project for the first time in Guam. Within a short span of time, we educated hundreds on the importance of sustainability and helped them implement it into their lifestyles. Every person we reached brought us closer to protecting our environment and reducing marine debris.

Our Ocean Guardian School project at Simon A. Sanchez High School worked together with five other schools across the island to minimize our impact on the ecosystem and reduce potential sources of marine debris. Our team consisted of four teachers, 53 official student members who directly carried out the project, and an estimated 300 unofficial student members who also provided feedback and assistance. Our project featured in-person activities and used our website to go beyond the limitations created by the pandemic. On the Simon A. Sanchez High School campus, student and teacher project members came together to execute three cleanups and install 60 recycling bins, four compost bins, and seven compost collection bins. We also conducted a cleanup in the village of Dededo. 

Student members brainstormed ideas for these activities in the classrooms to safely and effectively practice the 6Rs of sustainability (Refuse, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Recycle) during the pandemic. One successful idea was our cultivation of the school garden and waste composting. The school garden existed before our project but had to be rebuilt every year. Due to our work, we are now able to collect and process compostable waste at a greater, more efficient rate. 

However, our efforts do not end there. Team members who were at home due to the pandemic contributed by helping with the Guam Ocean Guardians website. The website showcases student-made graphics and features our local Guam heroes. These are people, government agencies, nonprofits, schools, and businesses that have taken measures to preserve Guam's environment. We also created online escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and karaoke slides that aim to educate the public on the 6Rs of sustainability.

Working towards a more sustainable Guam has allowed us to grow in more ways than one. During our project, a shared passion brought out our creativity and enabled us to better serve our island. It created a productive and positive atmosphere that made us feel more united and helped us push through the difficulties we faced while carrying out our project. In the end, we flourished and became role models to our family members, peers, and community.

Everything in our environment is connected. From the ridge of Mount Lam Lam to the reefs of Pati Point, there is no area that functions alone. In the same way, we work together and strive to protect Guam's watersheds, aquatic life, and its future. We may only be students, but our small actions come together to create a big difference. And the best part: we get to be Guam Heroes from right at home!