HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.—As an Anaheim Unified School District bus pulled into the parking area of Huntington State Beach on May 31, the sound of energetic children filled the air as they prepared to embark on one of their last adventures of the school year—Kids Ocean Day.
Hosted by Orange County Coastkeeper, a nonprofit advocating for water resource preservation, “Kids Ocean Day is a chance for all of the students to come and not only take action against the marine debris by doing a beach cleanup, but also creating the aerial art that will be photographed with a drone,” Michaela Coats, the organization's education director, told The Epoch Times.
With “Share Joy” as this year’s theme for the human aerial art, “[The participants are] hoping to send a wider message … to maybe those in power and bring awareness to the issue of marine debris as a way to take more action, in a fun way,” Coats said.
Supervised by teachers and parent volunteers, children arriving at the beach by the busload came from multiple schools in inland Orange County, including Garden Grove, Anaheim, and Santa Ana.
For some, it was their first time having any kind of beach experience, according to Coats.
“For many of these students this is their first chance to be on the coast at the beach, and especially coming out of two years of them being in school virtually,” Coats shared. “They're finally able to have this field trip experience and just really experience the joy that can come from our coastline.”
As the various schools broke off into sections, students got into several smaller groups as they hunted for trash between lifeguard towers 8 and 13.
“We picked up about 20 pieces of trash today,” Valerie, 9, of Santa Ana shyly said while standing in the sand next to three of her friends. “I think now we are going to build a sandcastle.”
Clad in backpacks, rubber gloves, and plenty of water to complete their task, the 552 students present for the cleanup were able to gather over 13 bags of trash between quick games of tag and hole-digging.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Orange County Coast Keeper staff members were encouraged to embrace Kids Ocean Day for the Spring 2022 semester.
“It's so wonderful that we are able to hold this event once again,” said Chair of the California Coastal Commission Donne Brownsey. “The students who take part in Kids Ocean Day are demonstrating how to be good stewards of our precious coast and ocean, and reminding us of the joy of connecting with nature. … They are truly role models.”
The event ended with students, staff, and 76 volunteers forming a giant, human art piece that said “Share Joy,” with letters crafted into a sea horse and a whale tail.
“The students were so eager to get on the sand,” Orange County Coastkeeper Deputy Director of Programs Dyana Peña said. “We hope today will inspire the students to continue to act for the environment in their community."