Dressed in brightly colored T-shirts and with Heal the Bay buckets in hand, more than 700 kids from across L.A. County hit Santa Monica beach Wednesday, in the name of eco-education and science.
Hailing from elementary schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, the students took part in a myriad of hands-on activities. For many of them, it was the first time that they had ever been to the beach.
“It’s really cool to see what happens when they’ve stepped on the sand for the first time and see the ocean for the first time,” said Amanda Jones, Coastal Clean Up Education Day Coordinator for the event. “The ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ that you get are amazing.”
The annual Coastal Education Day is now in its 11th year, with each event adding more interesting activities and discovery elements.
“The kids get to go all the way down to the water, look for sand crabs, as well as doing a beach clean-up,” Jones explained.
Set up just south of Santa Monica Pier, kids took part in debris-collecting relay races, sea life discovery on the shore line and touch-tanks at the aquarium, where they were allowed to gently handle marine life and discover marine artifacts like giant whale bones and shark’s teeth.
There was also a “butt-o-meter” competition – a race to fill a clear, six-foot cylinder with the most cigarette butts found on the beach.
“The day is designed to connect them to the ocean and its importance to all of Southern California, with the goal of demonstrating how each student can play a role in marine conservation,” according to organizers Heal the Bay.
Students were split into groups to learn about sea life, the importance of keeping the beach clean and how the ocean and its creatures feature in everyday life.
Volunteers and teachers led the kids through the activities, which were informative and fun.
“Students also learnt how to make an immediate, positive impact on the coastal environment,” organizers said.
Since 1990, Heal the Bay has coordinated California Coastal Cleanup Day sites across Los Angeles, with the realized aim of eliminating hundreds of tons of trash and marine debris. Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization whose mission is to make Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean.
Education Day is held in the lead up to Coastal Cleanup Day, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 20. There are more than 50 sites where anyone can volunteer, including several in Santa Monica and surrounding beaches. The event runs from 9 am until noon. For more information and to register go to www.healthebay.org.