Seventy fifth- and sixth-graders from St. Jerome School in Westchester helped clean up the beach near the Santa Monica Pier during “Earth Day at the Pier” Tuesday, April 22nd.

The Earth Day event provided the young volunteers an opportunity to help clean up and preserve the stretch of sand by the famous pier.

St. Jerome teachers Mauricio Ortega and Summer Carter said they organized the field trip so that their students could experience first-hand the damage caused by pollution and participate in an effort to help alleviate that destruction.

Joining other volunteers and Earth Day supporters, the students were led by teachers and parent chaperones to clean the beach and document the various types of litter found on the shore. Student groups charted the data in binders and among the many items picked up were plastic bags, bottles, cups, shoes, eating utensils, glass, Styrofoam, rubber, paper, wood and cigarette butts.

After an hour and half of helping clean the beach, the data sheets revealed that cigarette butts were by far the number one item littering the beach, the teachers said. This was a critical discovery for the students as they considered the effects such items can have on animals on or near the beach, according to the teachers.

Following the cleanup, students also spent time visiting information booths that nonprofit organizations and environmental groups had set up to reinforce the message of Earth Day throughout the year.

As a reward for their hard work, the students enjoyed the rest of their field trip on the rides at the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier.

The St. Jerome teachers said they are proud of the volunteers and hope their experiences on Earth Day will serve as a stepping stone for future service opportunities.