For some of the kids on Heal the Bay’s Coastal Clean-up Education Day yesterday, it was their first time at the beach. More than 200 children from across LA County attended and participated in activities to learn about local ecology and environmental issues.
Marissa Reese, a fifth grade teacher at Holmes Elementary in Lakewood, mentored a group of third through fifth grade students there.
“We’re a Title I school, so we have a pretty high population at our school, so a lot of them may never leave Long Beach or Lakewood,” she said. “So to come to Santa Monica to have this experience is really great.”
Students rotated between multiple stations on the beach and Heal the Bay’s aquarium, each with a different focus, but all themed around the themes of pollution, the interconnectedness of habitats and the impact of human activity on the environment, according to Kelly Kelly, senior education manager for Heal the Bay.
“They’re doing a fun game, it’s called the fatal food relay,” Kelly said. “So they’re ocean animals and they run a race to get a bag and then in the bag is a food item, some other marine animal, or a piece of garbage. So they either go back in line with the food animal or take the waste to the hospital.”
She said they then discuss with the children what they caught, how it might affect them, and what they can do to prevent the waste from ending up in the first place. Reese, who previously brought other groups of students to Coastal Clean-up Education Day, said she thinks it helps “bring science alive for them.”
“Being in nature, understanding their impact, that hands-on experience — in the classroom we can only do so much, but this kind of science takes it out of the classroom and puts it into the real world,” she said.
Karoline Linde, a fifth grade teacher at Christopher Dena Elementary, said the program helps complement her teaching.
“There’s an ecology unit coming up, so this is a great warm-up for that,” she said.
The Education Day foreshadowed the upcoming Heal the Bay Coastal Cleanup Day, a nationwide cleanup that will take place on Saturday, September 17. The event attracts thousands of volunteers each year to help clean up trash and assist with other local cleanup efforts and restoration projects.
Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn said that in addition to cleaning up trash, the event also serves to collect valuable data.
“You’re helping Heal the Bay collect really important data about what kind of waste we find and that helps us drive policy, both locally and nationally,” she said.
Volunteers who participate in the Coastal Clean-up Day are given a piece of paper to document what they find, which is then uploaded to a database.
“We see more than 100 pounds of waste being regularly collected from our beach cleanups and so I’m really excited to see how much we can collect this year,” said Quinn.
Cleanups will take place on Saturday in collaboration with other organizations at more than 30 locations around LA. More information about the event and how to register can be found on the Heal the Bay website https://healthebay.org/coastalcleanupday.