With a black garbage bag in hand, second-grader Hayden Marshbank led the way at morning recess Friday for more than a dozen of her peers over the blacktop and onto the field in search of litter.
Hayden not only leads, but founded Adams Elementary School's Trash Pick-Up Team, which goes out during recess in search of any trash their peers at the Costa Mesa campus might have left behind.
"I did this because I thought it would help our Earth be more clean," the 7-year-old said.
Principal Gabe Del Real said Hayden brought the idea to him and then came back with a proposal complete with mission statement. ("If you want to make the world a better place, it starts with you and where you are.")
There were also rules to become a team member: You must care about keeping the school litter free; you must wear a T-shirt or badge identifying you as a member of the Trash Pick-Up Team; all students are welcome to participate; and if a leader is absent, sick or leaving the school, the leader will choose a responsible student to fill in for him or her.
"When she brought this to me, she was very determined to put this team into action right away," Del Real said, adding later, "It was exciting because it was completely initiated by her. She just came up to me and said, 'I would really love to do this.'"
The idea of the Trash Pick-Up team to Hayden during a bicycle ride with her mom.
"If people like this world, why would they throw trash on it?" Hayden remembered asking her mother.
She decided she wanted to start taking care of the part of the Earth where she spends most of her time. She wanted to educate others, especially her older peers, about the damage trash can do.
"Older kids think it's cool to litter, but it's actually not cool to litter," she said. "They're just too cool to see how it hurts the Earth."
The Trash Pick-Up Team has caught on with some of the primary-grade students, who follow Hayden's lead at recess.
"I think the program is really good because we need the Earth to be clean," said Leslie Banos, who said she is trying to join the team. "I think that Hayden is a brilliant girl for starting this program because if someone litters, it's bad for the Earth."