This year we are celebrating the 6th year of Bye Bye Basura, our environmental education program for third graders in San Pablo and its sister city, Manzanillo, Mexico. What began as a small pilot project for two classes has evolved into a transformative and impactful program reaching hundreds of students!
The bilingual title of this school program reveals a great deal about our goals. Trash is something that is found all over the world. Litter that travels from our Bay Area watershed into the Pacific Ocean can end up anywhere on the planet. Through the generous support of the San Pablo Community Foundation and the Sister City Committee we have been able to help elementary school students better understand the global nature of marine debris, and more importantly, the importance of individuals and communities in stepping up and helping prevent this cascading litter.
This past year, we were able to add a major component to our curriculum: field trips. We were thrilled to provide every one of our 214 students with a memorable, hands-on, outdoor experience. In a world where many of our urban students suffer from “nature-deficit disorder,” it is critical to bring kids outside. As the conservationist Rachel Carson once wrote, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” This year’s Bye Bye Basura did just that.
After learning about watersheds, marine debris, and how long different materials take to decompose when left outside, students ventured into the great outdoors. Lake Elementary students toured the El Cerrito Recycle Center and hiked up the Hillside Natural Area to enjoy breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay, and use binoculars and hand lenses to discover new birds, plants, and bugs. Downer Elementary students visited Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline in Richmond where they conducted a trash clean-up, bird watched, created their own plant field guides, and played educational games to explore their backyard ecosystem. Students then wrote about their experiences to their peers in Mexico. Staff member Liza Dadiomov had the opportunity to then travel to Manzanillo to deliver the postcards and lessons to nearly 70 students there. As part of their Bye Bye Basura experience, the students also went on a field trip to a local shoreline. They cleaned up nearly 200 pounds of trash on a quiet morning at Playa La Boquita.
Teachers and students were inspired by what they saw and their sense of wonder was re-awakened. In their postcards to their international pen pals, some of our eight-year old watershed stewards wrote:
“We hiked up a hill, saw the Golden Gate Bridge, used binoculars, and had lots of fun.”
“My class went on a field trip and we had so much fun. We had to work together.”
“Our world will be a better place if we recycled more.”
Thank you to the San Pablo Community Foundation, Sister City Committee, Lake and Downer Elementary communities, El Cerrito Recycle Center, East Bay Regional Parks, and all of our friends and partners in Manzanillo!