But there's a problem. Until this year, most Maldivian children had not seen a coral reef, could not swim (most still can't), and often held a deep-rooted fear of the big blue. Ghost nets entangling turtles, plastic bags defiling corals, and straws in the guts of fish existed in a different world.
In 2018, that is changing.
A government project called Faru Koe, meaning "Child of the Reef," aims to take all 81,000 students in the Maldives to a reef this year, and is pushing schools to eliminate single-use plastics.
"We're an importing economy and everything comes wrapped in plastic," says Fathmath Hulwa Khaleel, program officer for the project. "So it's a big battle, but we're starting where we think we'll make the most difference: with schools. Showing kids what it is we want them to protect."
For World Oceans Day (June 8), all 212 schools in the Maldives have joined CNN's #zeroplasticlunch
campaign, which has asked students to strip single-use plastics from their lunch.
But how unique is the Maldives' student awareness of plastic pollution? We visited schools from Venez