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Lessons in litter: Two ocean-focused groups hope to connect with students about beach trash

Judging from the amount of trash left behind along the Southern California coast, lessons about litter still need to be taught to beachgoers.

Two ocean-focused groups, the Shark Lab in Long Beach and the Eco-Warrior Foundation based in Laguna Beach, are hoping to connect with students as they head back to school to highlight the harm caused by pollution reaching the ocean, threatening sea creatures and other wildlife that call the coast home.

Cal State Long Beach this week released the latest story in its Beach Days comic book series, “Marine Pollution,” hoping to reach thousands of kids with its message about maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. Eco-Warrior Foundation has designed lessons teachers or even parents can download and use.

The 32-page comic book, created by different departments throughout Cal State Long Beach, is free and will be made available at lifeguard headquarters and city offices across Southern California.

California State University, Long Beach this week released its latest Beach Days comic book series called “Marine Pollution,” hoping to reach thousands of youth across Southern California with the message about maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. (Courtesy of Shark Lab)

“The goal is to educate kids about different types of pollution and give them ideas on ways they can help clean up the ocean,” Chris Lowe, director of the CSULB Shark Lab, said in a news release. “We really want to inform and empower them, but with a fun, colorful story.”

The Shark Lab helped with the series, along with Erika Holland, a professor and leader of CSULB’s Aquatic Toxicology Lab, and Renalto Bernal, a graduate from the university’s School of Art.

The comics include scenarios discouraging people from catching and eating contaminated fish and avoiding ocean activity in water with high-bacteria levels.

“As an environmental enthusiast and scientist, outreach to the public, especially kids, is an important part of my research,” Holland said. “Young people will be the ones to take these ideas and drive the necessary change influencing the future.”

Bernal, who has returned the characters from last year’s release, said comic books were a big inspiration for him as a boy.

“They have always had a message to convey,” he said. “And when I heard that this comic book was to advocate about ocean pollution, it was something I had to contribute to.”

The Eco-Warrior Foundation, created by former pro surfer and Laguna Beach native James Pribram, teamed up with Bruce Holaday, managing director of curriculum for San Jose State, and Tammie Visintainer and Grinell Smith, two professors from the university, to create the curriculum that is being made available on how ecosystems interconnect and how human activity impacts the natural environment.

Lessons were made adaptable for early elementary, middle school and high school students. The first probes the question “what is litter and where does it come from?”

Eco-Warrior Foundation founder James Pribram is helped develop curriculum to educate kids about trash and its impact on the environment. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A follow up lesson explores the “litter pathway” and how it ends up at the ocean, as well as asks questions about what the ecosystem impacts of litter may be if it is not properly disposed of and how trash is handled by local and regional waste-management systems. A third lesson explores how students can take action and what can be done to sustain the ecosystem.

“As silly as it sounds, it’s evident we need to educate people about the harmfulness of littering,” Pribram said. “I see littering on the beaches, streets, waterways and hiking trails getting worse every day.”

Millions more people have been visiting beaches as the coronavirus pandemic limits other entertainment options –  Los Angeles County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors recently created a “pack in, pack out” PSA for beachgoers. 

“Especially in the middle of a pandemic, this is great for kids to utilize, either in schools, clubs or even with their parents,” Pribram said.  “That’s just our foundation’s way of giving back to the next generation. I think now is the perfect time, we’re really excited about it.”

Pribram said he still remembers an anti-littering campaign from when he was a student in the ’70s and wants to help make the fight against littering cool again.

“When I was a child growing up on the beach, there were two things that were uncool. One was littering and two was smoking cigarettes,” he said. “At some point, it has been lost.

“The amount of littering, even on our highways, they just think it’s OK to litter,” he said. “Nothing is sacred anymore. Maybe getting in the classrooms and teaching them about not littering and the ocean, it will change the behavior of people.”

The downloads are free and available on

Source: Orange County Register

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