CITYWIDE — Starting today, Santa Monica kids can trash can relay, putt for points and bottle bowl their way to saving the environment. The Clean Air Olympics — which includes these tasks and many more — is just one activity available to kids at Camp Santa Monica through the O24U curriculum.
O24U activities like making smog catchers and playing asthma bingo are intended to help kids establish relationships with the world they live in and become more interested in combating the negative effects of environmental change.
“When kids make things or write about things, they learn in the process,” said Dan Witzling, environmental program manager for BREATHE California of Los Angeles County (BREATHE LA).
BREATHE LA is teaming up with Child Care, Recreation, Enrichment, Sports, Together (CREST) to offer environmental education classes at CREST’s Camp Santa Monica, open to kids ages 8 to 14. Classes run through August 28.
“The program is aimed at enhancing our environment and health,” said Concepcion Rechtszajd, Community Services Program supervisor for CREST. BREATHE LA’s O24U curriculum, developed in 2003, will add another component relating to health and environment to CREST’s existing outdoor education programs.
The O24U curriculum includes six lesson areas — a general overview of air pollution and environmental changes, an examination of the health effects of toxins in the body, a survey of toxic indoor environments, a spotlight on kids who have made and can make a difference for the environment, a look at practical solutions and a study of alternative energy.
“BREATHE LA is unique because our mission is to promote clean air and healthy lungs, so we approach environmental education from a very personal level,” Witzling said. “We encourage kids to find heroes and consider themselves heroes for the environment.”
Most of the materials for activities are supplied by local grocery and hardware stores, Witzling said. BREATHE LA is still looking to establish these partners in Santa Monica.
BREATHE LA sought out Santa Monica because its location — surrounded by freeways, an airport and the ocean — makes it a micro-climate.
“We want kids to come away with a greater awareness of what they’re surrounded by and any changes that need to take place,” Witzling said.
The O24U curriculum was developed in compliance with state standards for environmental education implemented in 2006.
“No one wants to burden teachers with extra content,” Witzling said. “The idea was how do we integrate environmental education with learning that already exists.”
CREST’s after-school programs presented a perfect opportunity. The O24U curriculum will also be offered there starting next fall.
“CREST is exactly the type of partner we look for,” Witzling said, citing CREST’s status as a “clearinghouse” for all of the Santa Monica elementary schools. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to reach more kids more efficiently.”
To date, BREATHE LA has provided this type of program to about 5,000 students. Five years from now, Witzling hopes to have served 100,000.
BREATHE LA is an independent nonprofit that has existed under different names since 1903. CREST, a collaboration between the city of Santa Monica’s Human Services Division of the Community & Cultural Services Department and the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, offers summer camps and before- and after-school programs.
To sign kids up for Camp Santa Monica, parents should visit http://crest.smgov.net. The summer program costs $170 per week for residents of Santa Monica and $190 per week for non-residents.