Strathmore students help clean the coast

By Nancy Gutierrez

"My favorite part was watching the waves moving," Thalia Ibarra said.

Ibarra had never been to the ocean, but knew it was important for everyone to keep the beaches clean so that people can enjoy it when they come for the first time.

Close to 180 Strathmore Elementary and Sunnyside Elementary students landed on the beaches of the Central Coast to take part in a Kids' Adopt-A-Beach cleanup in Cayucos on March 31. Second graders from both schools were invited to participate in the activity that was started 10 years ago and helps to clean surrounding beaches while educating children about the environment.

"It helps inland students learn how their connected to the coast," Second grade teacher Susan Ornelaz said.

Ornelaz was contacted by the San Luis County Adopt-A-Beach coordinator and Outreach Coordinator for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program Cheryl Lesinski. Lesinski said she was interested in having Strathmore students participate in the beach clean up again. Strathmore second graders were invited to the event last year.

"These students are receiving an amazing introduction to the importance of marine life. Many of the students will experience the seashore for the first time and that memorable event is being coupled with becoming an environmental steward," Lesinski said.

Prior to making the trek to Cayucos the students were given a presentation by Lesinski that taught them how the storm drain system and watersheds connect inland neighborhoods to the beaches and oceans, and addressed the need for recycling and litter reduction.

"She had a watershed model that showed how if you wash your car here in Strathmore and it goes into the sewer it will end up in lakes or the ocean," Ornelaz said. "No matter where we are we are connected. Students learned if [they] put garbage in the water [they] are not helping to keep the Earth healthy."

The students also created water cycle bracelets with beads that represented each component of the cycle. A week after the presentations five classes from Strathmore elementary and three classes from Sunnyside found themselves 150 miles from home. They worked side by side picking up trash with guidance from the Morro Bay National Estuary staff.

Andres Rodriguez had been to the beach before. It wasn't until this visit that he learned how important it is to keep the beaches clean.

"That way the animals can be alive and not dead," he said.

Students also learned the value of community service. March 31 was also Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning. A day that engages thousands of K-12 students in service projects to honor the life and work of the United Farm Workers founder.

"The event was planned before we knew about Cesar Chavez day," Ornelaz said. "It fell perfectly on the day and made the students aware of the need to help each other out."

At the end of the day the students sat down in the sand and spelled out the word, "preserve." A helicopter took an aerial photo of the formation.

The Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the California Coastal Commission started the annual event in Los Angeles in 1994. With funding from the Whale Tail License Plate, the Kids' Adopt-A-Beach program has expanded throughout the state.

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