Hundreds of elementary students converge on Ocean Beach for trash cleanup 

The sun was shining and the kids were enthusiastic Thursday morning as more than 500 elementary school students from San Francisco and Marin counties converged on Ocean Beach to clean up debris.

The 18th annual Kids’ Adopt-a-Beach Cleanup was held across the state Thursday to teach students about local waterways and ask residents to help keep the oceans clean, according to the Richardson Bay Audubon Society and Sanctuary, which organized the Ocean Beach event.

About 560 students were bused in to pick up trash and participate in an aerial art project, Audubon Center education director Wendy Dalia said.

Around noon, the students planned to arrange themselves in the shape of a giant talking bat ray and spell out the words, “Turn the tide,” while a helicopter flew overhead and a photographer captured the design.

Dalia said the students love participating in the annual beach cleanup, which has been held in San Francisco for the last 11 years.

“They learn how, even if they live miles and miles away from the beach, they’re all connected to the beach through watersheds,” she said. “Everything they do helps protect the beach.”

The students also learn that the littlest pieces of trash are most harmful to wildlife because the smaller items are mistaken for food.

“Little stuff can work its way all the way up the food chain,” Dalia said.

The cleanups are funded by the California Coastal Commission in advance of World Oceans Day on June 8.

Dalia said this year’s photograph is meant to communicate to the public that it’s possible to keep the ocean clean, particularly if people think about the products they’re using.

“When you buy single-use items, you’re basically buying trash,” she said.

The center recommends drinking from reusable water bottles, using reusable bags, and avoiding Styrofoam.  

San Francisco’s Sunset Elementary and Ulloa Elementary schools participated in the cleanup, along with Bahia Vista Elementary, Willow Creek Academy, and Edna Maguire Elementary in Marin County.

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