Assisting Mangrove Reforestation Outreach through the Development of Educational Tools

Sponsoring Organizations: La Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI) and LimPiaR

Team Members: Geneva Isaacson (Mechanical Engineering and Physics ‘2023), Adam McKnight (BioChem ‘2023), and Gianluca Panza (Biomedical Engineering ‘2023)

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Download 7 Day Mangrove.

Download Mangrove Juggle.

Download Unstable Mangroves.

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Download the Informational Wave Tank Poster.

Executive Summary:

Mangroves serve as important ecosystems for thousands of species. They protect coastal communities from natural disasters, sequester massive amounts of carbon dioxide, improve water quality, and support a variety of economies. Despite the importance of mangroves worldwide, they have seen a global decline due to human activity and natural disasters. In Puerto Rico, dual 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico and destroyed more than half of the mangroves on the island (FEMA, 2018). Natural recovery of mangroves can take as long as 30 years or more (Branoff et al., 2019; Ferwerda, Ketner, & McGuinness, 2007), making mangrove maintenance and reforestation efforts vital. The Piñones community on the north coast of Puerto Rico hosts the largest mangrove forest on the island representing 22% of the island’s mangroves (Ruiz, 1999).

Goals and Objectives
The goal of this project was to utilize local knowledge and expertise about mangrove maintenance and educational games to develop participatory games and a wave tank simulation demonstrating the importance of mangroves in Piñones to assist mangrove reforestation outreach. We came up with four objectives to meet this goal:

Our Sponsors
La Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI) is a community-based non-profit organization. COPI was founded in 1999 by Maricruz Rivera Clemente, a social worker and sociologist. In response to Hurricane Maria, COPI started a flood mitigation and canal cleaning project in and around Piñones for the sustained conservation of mangroves, to support local ecosystems and for protection against natural disasters. Phase I of the project involves mangrove restoration and reforestation. Five employees maintain a mangrove nursery, clear debris from canals, plant saplings, and document mangrove growth to support the wellbeing of the largest mangrove forest in Puerto Rico.


LimPiaR, is a non-profit organization created in 2018 as a response to the large amounts of trash found along the coastline of Piñones after hurricane Maria. Spanish for “clean up,” LimPiaR was created to fight pollution through clean-up efforts and by promoting public discussions around recycling and waste management. As part of LimPiaR’s mission to create a “cleaner and greener” Puerto Rico, they are focused on providing robust environmental education. A leader and educator at LimPiaR, Auraluz Guzman, is currently working towards raising environmental awareness through the implementation of environmental games with young children in Piñones.

Key Informant Interviews
Key informant interviews, used to gain expert information on specific topics, provided our team with necessary background on COPI’s mangrove management initiative. Additionally, they supported the design and development of our participatory games and simulatory wave tank. We conducted a total of four key informant interviews with Marcos Peñaloza, Maricruz Rivera Clemente, Nuria Escalera, and Auraluz Guzman.


Participatory Research

Participatory research was used to gain experience and information on the specifics behind mangrove reforestation and to form an understanding of mangrove management. Our team worked with the COPI reforestation team and engaged in field research to learn more about the mangrove forest, the reforestation process, and the importance of management. Our field research consisted of visiting three different mangrove reforestation zones around Piñones to plant, document, and observe mangroves there. We worked in the Clemente Canal, the Piñones Boardwalk, and the Peninsula of the Fishermen.

In all these locations, our team helped plant red mangroves to protect the coastline. During this immersive field work, we learned about, and participated in, the planting processes for different zones and mangroves. We assisted in identifying zones based on observing sections of canals or coastlines that had seen a noticeable decrease in the health of the mangroves or ecosystem. The zones were marked off and reforestation efforts were done considering suitable mangroves for the area.

Developing and Evaluating Participatory Games and an Educational Wave Tank

We prototyped, developed, tested, and evaluated four participatory games to educate players about the importance of mangrove reforestation, the threats to mangroves, and the ecology of the mangrove forests specific to Piñones. We developed game prototypes with the specific help of our sponsors and advisors based on information we learned about mangroves during our work in the reforestation zones and through key-informant interviews. The method that we choose to develop, test, and evaluate out games was based on the Climate Centre’s development process, and the e-VITA development process and evaluation frameworks.

Additionally, we designed and built a four-foot-long educational wave tank to serve as a physical exhibit in COPI. This exhibit serves as an interactive way to demonstrate the importance of mangroves in protecting coastal communities from flooding. Through our conversations with Marcos and initial testing of different designs, we came up with a final design that we were able to build and display at COPI.


Through our interviews with local stakeholders and conducting field research, we found that the mangrove forest in Piñones serves the community in a variety of ways and face several threats specific to the community. Understanding issues specific to Piñones through field research and key informant interviews informed the creation of informal educational materials and learning outcomes for the Piñones community. the four participatory games that we prototyped, developed, and tested ranged in success for achieving their intended learning outcomes while engaging and stimulating the interest of the participants. Notes, observations, and debrief questions informed iterations of each of our games in order to improve user experience, game engagement, and learning outcomes. Additionally, we successfully designed and constructed a stimulatory wave tank exhibit held at COPI with the purpose of catching the attention of visitors and raising awareness for the importance of mangroves in Piñones.



Our primary limitation was time. We found that we needed more time than we had expected to develop, prototype, test, and iterate on four participatory games and a wave tank. The games would benefit from further testing. Additionally, the creation of the simulation wave tank took longer than expected, largely due to difficulty acquiring materials. Due to limitations with materials and build time, we only able to fully build the tank and its components along with a poster about the tank. We did not have anyone other than our sponsors and our team interact with the tank.

We also struggled with the language barrier. One of our co-sponsors, Marcos Peñaloza at COPI, only spoke Spanish and understood some English. Some of our team understood a little Spanish, but not enough to understand important scientific and cultural information. As one of our key informants, Marcos held the expertise on mangrove reforestation. Fortunately, we had the help of our co-researchers and other key informants to assist in the translation process. Fortunately, Marcos is an extraordinarily patient person and an exceptional educator. We learned a great deal from him even though we did not share a common language.