Heal the Bay organizes hundreds of events each year, ranging from beach cleanups to habitat restorations to our annual Bring Back the Beach fundraising dinner. But my favorite event has to be Ed Day, held the Friday before Coastal Cleanup Day.
Every September, roughly 800 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students come out to the beach for Coastal Cleanup Education Day to learn about marine life in Santa Monica Bay and the pollution problems that people cause. The big message for the students is that we cause the mess, and we can solve the problems with just a little effort.
In this day of budget cutbacks, field trips have been eliminated at most schools. We give teachers the opportunity to bring their kids to the shore, where we teach on the beach and have students see first-hand the wonders of our Bay at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
Last Friday, the kids did a quick beach cleanup and competed to find the most cigarette butts buried in the sand. Playing a relay race game called “Fatal Food Relay,” the kids learned about the hazards of marine debris to ocean creatures. All of this at no charge to the school or the students.
I love the day because the kids come from all over L.A. County and many of them have never been to the beach their entire lives. To see students mesmerized by the beauty of the breaking waves is the ultimate reward for all the work put in by Heal the Bay staff and volunteers.
The best part of the experience is to see staff and volunteers interact with the students. For four hours, the kids move seamlessly from one activity to the other with growing enthusiasm. By the end of the day, students are giving staff hugs and we’re fist bumping the kids. Everyone has a great time and the students learn a lot about the ocean and how to become stewards.
We learn a lot about ourselves too, especially why we’re working so hard to heal the Bay.