After listening carefully to instructions from veteran naturalists, more than 40 students from Roosevelt High School grabbed shovels and gloves Wednesday and began ripping out weeds and planting native species in the dunes near a lagoon at Zuma Beach.
The students from the East Los Angeles school are participants in Eco-Heroes, a UCLA-sponsored program for high school students to work with groups such as the National Park Service and TreePeople on environmental restoration.
Under the program, students learn about protecting the environment by working on projects once a month for three months.
Adriana Leanos, 15, had to fight with a few tenacious weeds before planting a dune buckwheat plant, but said she was proud to be helping restore the area.
Otherwise, she said, "When I have kids, probably there won't be any beach anymore."
April Rocha, 15, who said her previous planting experience was limited to her grandmother's garden, agreed. "It's really going to help you be more aware of the environment and what's around here," she said.
Wednesday's gathering also commemorated the fifth annual National Public Lands Day, a national event scheduled for Saturday during which volunteers will do maintenance and restoration at publicly owned areas such as parks and historical sites.