KEKAHA — About 130 Waimea Canyon Middle School students gathered around Surfrider Foundation, Kauai Chapter Chair Barbara Wiedner as she broke down all the rubbish they collected Friday morning at MacArthur Park.
She informs the students they collected 197 total pounds of trash, breaking down the specifics of exactly what they took off Kekaha Beach during the cleanup, which is one of the staples of the Surfrider Foundation’s modus operandi.
“We got a car part. That was 74 pounds,” Wiedner said to the amassed students, who cheer each other on. “We got 87 pounds of trash, 13 pounds of plastic. We found 280 bottle caps, we got 12 pieces of Styrofoam, cigarette butts, 378, 26 water bottles, 32 bottles, 13 cans.”
This is the fourth year that Waimea Canyon Middle School has joined Surfrider Foundation to teach kids about involvement in conservation efforts.
“I’ve got to tell you, this is the cleanest that I have ever seen this beach, ever,” said Howard Hurst, who teaches science and sustainable agriculture at the middle school.
“His kids (Hurst’s students) know all the answers to the questions I ask like no others,” Wiedner said, adding she asks them basic questions like what is glass made of, what is plastic made of and why is it a problem. “They know everything.”
Wiedner and Hurst said doing the cleanup in consecutive years has aided students’ abilities to comprehend the issues at hand — both in the classroom and in the real world.
The beach cleanup was a culminating activity for students participating in the school’s 20 percent time initiative with the goal of providing students hands-on experience solving real-world problems.
The 20 percent time classes were designated based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This event is a merging of two groups addressing “Life Below Water” and “Life on Land.”
“So we are melding them together at the beach where it meets and we’re picking up plastic and analyzing the rubbish to kind of see where it is coming from,” Hurst said. “There’s a real misconception that it’s tourists, that it is outside garbage and that it is not like our ownership of it.”
Matt Snowden, who teaches art at the middle school, said it’s great to get students beyond school walls.
“The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice,” the foundation said in an email.
For the students, they said the beach cleanup was good to have near the end of the school year.
“The only problem is that it is a bit of a walk,” one student said.
“And that it is really hot,” added another.
Joshua Nipp with Surfrider was just surprised at how willing the students were to pitch in.
“It makes you feel good for days,” Nipp said. “I’m like smiling and dancing, you know what I mean? They were just all clamoring to help.”