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The coast is clear, thanks to kids

Students do their part during beach cleanup organized by the nonprofit Coastkeeper.

June 11, 2009|By Britney Barnes

Elementary school students spent the day at the beach Thursday being trash detectives and learning about recycling and taking care of the planet.

Students from eight schools in Orange County participated in the second annual Ocean Day at Bolsa Chica State Beach. About 700 students joined in the Kids’ Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup and then sent out a message to keep the ocean clean by lining up on the beach and spelling out the message “Keep me trash free.”

The event was organized by Coastkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Orange County’s marine habitats and watersheds, and the California Coastal Commission provided funding for the event along with local sponsors, Coastkeeper Education Director Briana Madden said.

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The students collected an estimated 200 bags of trash and cleaned more than a mile of beach, officials said.

“We’ve picked up trash so the animals underwater can breathe and have fun,” said 9-year-old David Segouia from Handy Elementary School in Orange.

The children kept track of what kind of trash they collected, and the data will be sent to the Coastal Commission, according to Coastkeeper volunteer Jamie Rimphanli. The trash detectives then sorted the items that could be recycled, something Coastkeeper has been teaching them through assemblies at each school, Madden said.

“We really wanted to focus on trash and plastics this time,” Rimphanli said. “I want them to understand what we do causes pollution in our beaches and marine life.”

Bill Burhans, a seasonal interpretive specialist for the state Department of Parks and Recreation, said the kids were discerning with what they picked up and knew to pick up the trash but leave the natural debris, like kelp, that is vital to the ecosystem.

“They are really enjoying it, and the fact that we prepared for it, the kids knew what was recyclable and what was trash,” said Misty Canto-Beaver, a Handy Elementary School teacher.

The students also sat in the sand and spelled out “Keep me trash free” and created shapes of a turtle and a jellyfish as an aerial photo was taken. Madden had the kids flap their arms like birds and roll their arms and fingers around like jellyfish as they sat waiting for the picture. All the students were to receive a copy of the photo as a reminder of what they learned.

Madden said the photo proves that “even though they are just one kid, when they get together with 700 other kids, they can make a difference.”

Handy third-grader Brianna Solis said she plans on recycling cans when she goes home and hopes other people will do their part as well.

“I’d tell them if there is trash on the ground, can you please pick it up? And if there is a can, can you please recycle it?” Brianna said.


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