“Plarn” Reefs Featured in New Maui Airport Display

Hawai'i Field Manager Wes Crile with Maui Airport Representatives in front of CORAL's displays
Hawai'i Field Manager Wes Crile with Maui Airport Representatives in front of CORAL's displays
Hawai’i Field Manager Wes Crile with Maui Airport Representatives in front of one of our airport displays

Earlier this year, thanks to support from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, we were able to set up two display cases in the Maui airport to educate travelers about the importance of protecting coral reefs. The cases highlight some easy ways visitors and locals can protect reefs, and feature a crochet coral reef made out of plarn, or plastic yarn, by The Pennington School. We were thrilled to be able to highlight the Crochet Reef Project and use it to help bring awareness to the struggle coral reefs face around the world. Read more about this project in the article below, written by one of The Pennington School teachers.

The Pennington School (Middle School) Crochet Reef Project
By Lisa Fitzpatrick, Middle School English Teacher, The Pennington School

In 2008, the sixth grade entered into an interdisciplinary unit (IDU) during the fourth quarter. The broad topic was marine biology, but the focus in 2011 was on coral reef ecology. In science, topics included animals and ecology of the reef, reefs as indicators of global change, and ocean pollution. The main connection to humanities was the link to the study of the Wonders of the World, specifically the Great Barrier Reef. In addition, culture surrounding reef areas and community efforts to save the reef were major topics. Math and languages played a smaller role, but there were still facets of this IDU incorporated in these subjects. Each year, the IDU ended with a culminating display for parents and community members. Highlights of this exhibit were projects and student work from the IDU. In addition, the class as a whole took on one major project to showcase at this event.

In 2011, the sixth grade created a Crochet Coral Reef. Started in Australia in 2005, the Crochet Coral Reef is a worldwide project which blends art, science, math, and environmental awareness. Our hope was to create the reef entirely out of plastic yarn (plarn), through the collection of plastic bags at school. Students learned to create the plarn, crochet it, and develop structures that mimic the coral and other sea life commonly found in a reef habitat. In doing so, our hope was to draw attention to the consumption of plastic products and the impact they have on our oceans.

Our plastic reef has traveled quite a bit since then. In 2011, our efforts earned a place in The Institute For Figuring’s Satellite Reef program. That same year, our reef was on display in our school gallery and then traveled to the Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, CA. Quite a few crocheted pieces were on display in their Hyperbolic: Reefs, Rubbish, and Reason exhibit. Next stop…the Maui Airport. Tara Jennings (former middle school science teacher) and I were so delighted to learn that our reef would be speaking to another audience, many miles away from New Jersey. We applaud the Coral Reef Alliance’s efforts and we appreciate your interest in our “plarn” creations.

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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