Coastal clean-up

San Diego students are learning while they work to conserve the local beach landscape

A trip to the beach might be a pleasant diversion for some. But students of Pacific Beach Middle School, San Diego, USA, are taking it more seriously, combining community action with environmental practice by adopting the coastline in their local area.

The principled sun-lovers spend at least one Saturday a month clearing the debris from San Diego’s Tourmaline Beach, a mile from the school. “It's great to see the students’ shared enthusiasm to save this beautiful beach on the Pacific Ocean,” said Jennifer Sims, Middle Years Programme (MYP) Coordinator. “Between 10 and 40 students turn up every time to help clear away debris.”

With help from the ‘I Love a Clean San Diego’ environmental organization, and the Surfrider Foundation, which supplies the necessary clean-up equipment, the school is making a real difference to its community and protecting a natural habitat.

Students officially adopted the beach in 2010 after a series of successful clean-ups arranged by student Hunter Ketchum.

Hunter has since handed the reins of the project to his teacher dad, Kyle, who continues to organize the events, inviting students and parents to get involved. Since the clean-up operations began, MYP students have been collecting data on the amount of debris most commonly found on the beach.

This is used across different lessons to help teach the processes of erosion, deposition and differing watersheds in international waters. Learning continues long after the event as students use the results to discuss where and how the debris is collected and how to reduce the waste in future.

The success of the project has inspired other students at the school. Nicholas Campagna’s student-run clean-up collected over 90lbs of rubbish and was a hit with locals, who were invited to take part in raffles and games.

Another student, with the help of surf campaigners rerip.com, organized a surfboard donation event, where students designed and installed a bench made entirely from recycled surfboards in the school garden.

Pacific Beach’s IB students have already clocked up an impressive 14,000 hours of clean-up service but still have hopes of expanding the project.

They are working towards becoming the first school in the district to have an “ocean-friendly garden” – and if previous form is anything to go by, the project is sure to be a great success.