Clean Neighborhoods, Clean Watersheds

Written by Sakshi Srivastava

Did you know that plastic has been found 36,000 feet deep in the ocean? That means that plastic pollution has traveled to places humans have never even inhabited!

“Last week, when we were cleaning up our school campus, we found so much trash on the fence and could see even more trash on the other side of the fence near the bay. That trash is creating a very unhealthy watershed for animals and people!”

Skye, Third Grade Student, Paden Elementary School, Alameda

Third grade classes at Paden Elementary School in Alameda, and their teachers Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Katz, have been learning about the importance of keeping their local watershed clean and healthy, and about the harmful effects of plastic pollution. The playground at Paden Elementary overlooks the bay, so the KIDS for the BAY Watershed Rangers program is especially meaningful for this school community. Students often notice that the bay shoreline near their school is covered with various types of plastic trash, and they are very eager to help solve this problem. 

Our young environmentalists walked to Crab Cove from their school, and they were very happy to connect with the nature all around them. They sat quietly on the sandy beach and listened intently to the sounds of birds calling, gentle waves lapping the shore, and the voices of some preschoolers playing nearby. Each student carefully recorded a “sound map” to note all the different sounds they heard and the directions they were coming from. This activity helped the students appreciate the diversity of sounds in nature and specifically the beach habitat. “I heard the sound of seagulls, slow waves in the water, an airplane, people walking, and a truck driving,” said Beatrice. “I heard so many more sounds than I thought I would.”

Students eagerly roamed the beach shoreline, scanning the sand for items to record in their nature scavenger hunt. They laughed and chattered, pointing excitedly when they found pieces of weathered wood, strands of seaweed, shells, and even the carapace and pincher of a small shoreline crab. Genevieve exclaimed with delight, “Look at this! It’s all smooth and shiny, but I can still see the spiral pattern in this interesting piece of driftwood!” Another student, Brooklyn, held up a strand of seaweed and marveled, “It’s so slimy and squishy! I wonder if there are any animals living on this.” The students carefully sketched their observations in their nature journals to share with their families back at home.

The class was determined to collect as much trash as possible in their beach cleanup, especially plastic pollution. Students used tongs and reusable bags to pick up litter and were eager to leave the beach cleaner than they found it. “I found a lot of cigarette butts, bottle caps, and plastic straws,” said Ethan. “I found a plastic bag tangled up in some seaweed. It was sad to see how the trash can hurt the plants, animals and their homes,” shared Saya. Working together as a team, our young environmentalists in two third grade classes collected 656 pieces or 27.25 gallons of trash!

The students were excited to play a relay race game to learn how to practice the Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot) to reduce plastic trash and waste at the source before it can harm the environment. This game helped students learn to sort objects into the correct categories for each trash/waste item. Students worked together in teams and raced against each other to see who could sort the objects the fastest. “I put this plastic bag between the reuse and refuse sections because I think you could do both. You could just say no to taking it in the first place, but if you have it, it’s better to reuse it than to throw it into the trash,” explained Rob.

With impressive hard work and dedication, our third-grade environmentalists demonstrated the power of individual and group actions, and the importance of taking care of their neighborhood and watershed. Their efforts are an important reminder that everyone has a role to play in protecting our planet for current and future generations.

KIDS for the BAY