Teaching kids about healthy seas

For Dyana Peña, asking 1,183 children to stand in a specific spot in the sand at Huntington State Beach for an hour is a "logistical nightmare."

The education coordinator from Orange County Coastkeeper did her best to stencil the image chosen for this year's Kids Ocean Day into the sand before organizing students to stand in the pattern she and other volunteers traced.

It's a 190-by-220-foot image of a girl holding a shell next to her ear with the words "Save My Home" above her head. A remote-controlled helicopter with a camera captured the illustration an hour after all the pieces were set.

The event Tuesday was part of the 20th anniversary of Kids Ocean Day, started by the Coastal Commission and the Malibu Foundation in 1993, Coastkeeper spokeswoman Pamela Crouch said. The program expanded to Orange County in 2003 and Coastkeeper was put in charge six years ago.

Kids Ocean Day teaches students about the effects of pollution on their beaches how to keep them clean, Coastkeeper education director Briana Madden said.

Before taking the big shot, teachers and children from 13 Orange County schools sifted through the sand, collecting various pieces of trash and storing them in plastic milk jugs.

"They've already got some background information and they're doing their cleanup, and they'll go over and make an [enormous] image," Madden said.

Fourth-grade teacher Martha Rankin, from Pomona Elementary in Costa Mesa, combed the sand with her students, identifying types of trash.

They found buried cigarette butts, bottle caps and pieces of paper, plastic and Styrofoam.

Pomona has a green team at the campus, where its members create compost, work an organic garden and recycle.

Rankin said this is the second year the school has participated in the cleanup and the first time Rankin's students have participated in the event.

"We're helping the animals [from getting] killed," said Evelyn Medrano, a fourth-grader from Pomona. "It makes me feel happy because I'm helping my environment."

Crouch said Huntington State Beach off Brookhurst Street and Pacific Coast Highway was chosen because of its proximity to the mouth of the Santa Ana River.

"We're trying to get the message across about how everything's connected and we live in a watershed where everything is going to flow downstream to the ocean," she said. "We're trying to instill good behavior in these children as they're growing up and learning about the environment."

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