Beach: Locals can still sign up for this weekends clean-up after Wednesday’s education day. Grace Inez Adams

For some kids at Heal the Bay’s Coastal Clean-up Education Day yesterday, it was their first time at the beach. Over 200 kids 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, was there chaperoning a group of third to fifth grade students.

“We’re a Title I school so we have a pretty high needs population at our school so a lot of them might never get out of Long Beach or Lakewood,” she said. “So to come out to Santa Monica for them to get this experience is really awesome.”

Students rotated between multiple stations on the beach and in Heal the Bay’s aquarium, each with a different focus, but all around the theme 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 do one fun game, it’s called the fatal food relay,” Kelly said. “So they’re ocean animals and they do a race to get a bag and then in the bag is either a food item, another sea animal or a piece of trash. So they either go back in line with the food animal or go to the hospital with the trash.”

She said they then discuss with the kids what they caught, how it might affect them and what they can do to prevent trash from getting there in the first place. Reese, who has 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 takes science out of the classroom and puts it into real world context,” she said.

Karoline Linde, a fifth-grade teacher at Christopher Dena Elementary said that the program helps compliment her teaching.

“We have an ecology unit coming up so this is a great warm-up for that,” she said.

The education day was a precursor to Heal the Bay’s upcoming Coastal Clean-up day, a county-wide clean-up effort which will take place Saturday Sept. 17. The event draws thousands of volunteers annually to help pick up trash and assist with other local clean-up efforts and restoration projects.

Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn said that in addition to picking up trash, the event also serves to collect valuable data.

“You’re helping Heal the Bay to collect really important data about what kind of trash we’re finding and that helps us to enact policies both locally and nationwide,” she said.

Volunteers participating in Coastal Clean-up day will be given a piece of paper that allows them to document what they find which will then be uploaded to a database.

“We see over 100 pounds of trash being picked up at our beach clean-ups regularly and so I’m really excited to see how much we’re able to collect this year,” Quinn said.

Clean-up efforts will be taking place at over 30 locations around LA Saturday in partnership with other organizations. More information on the event and how to register can be found on Heal the Bay’s website https://healthebay.org/coastalcleanupday.

grace@smdp.com