Coastal Cleanup Education Day 2013

For many of us here at Heal the Bay, Coastal Cleanup Education Day is our favorite time of the year.

Sure, we have to get up a little earlier and schlep heavy stuff across the hot sand. We also tend to lose our voices by shouting to be heard over hundreds of excited kids who have come to the Santa Monica shoreline for a day of ocean discovery, guided by Heal the Bay staff.

But it’s all worth it when our Aquarium doors open and the kids rush in, leading each other by the hand to take a close-up look at the sea jellies or rock fish. Even better is hearing their delight when they find tiny marine creatures in the sand when they head out for some beach exploration.

This year we hosted more than 600 students from across L.A. County – Long Beach, Pasadena, Montebello and South Los Angeles – all from underserved schools.

The day is organized to teach the kids to love the ocean as much as we do and strive to protect it.. Some of these students had never been to the beach before. But they all learned that trash on our streets eventually flows to the Santa Monica Bay, where pollution can harm the animals that live there, the same animals they meet when they visit our Aquarium.

One way they learn about the effect of pollution is by counting the amount of trash they pick up on the beach. This year, the kids removed nearly 75 pounds of ocean-bound litter, including enough cigarettes to measure 8 feet on our “butt-o-meter.”

(Can we hear a collective “EWWWW!”?)

Despite the “yuck” factor, teachers love the day because their students come back so happy and inspired, as the photos below demonstrate so eloquently.

Any wonder that it’s our favorite day of the year?

Coastal Education Day 2013 could not have been possible without Mattel Children’s Foundation and their volunteers’ assistance throughout the day; the City of Santa Monica; Fresh Brothers for helping to feed our hungry volunteer team; and our partners at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Los Angeles Conservation Corps at SEA Lab, Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, and USC Sea Grant for coming out to help lead the activities and educate students.

Thank you to all the teachers, administrators and parents who came together from the schools to help bring the children to the beach!

Coastal Cleanup Education Day 2013 Heal the Bay Santa Monica

Click here for more photos!