Despite a steady drizzle that lasted the majority of the early morning hours, an estimated 5,000 area students and their teachers took part in the 17th annual Kids Ocean Day at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey Thursday, May 27th as part of the Adopt-A-Beach Clean-up campaign by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the California Coastal Commission.

Participants removed trash and other debris, including beer bottles, plastic, bottle caps and cigarette butts from the sand during the first hours of the clean-up effort. Later, they formed a human mosaic that could be seen from the air that spelled out “Sustain Life.”

Representatives from the Malibu Foundation and the Coastal Commission joined Cynthia Ruiz of the Board of Public Works at a press conference following the clean-up.

“The vitality of Los Angeles and the rest of our planet depends on the health of the ocean for the oxygen we breathe, the food that we eat, and a livable climate,” Ruiz told the audience of environmentalists, teachers volunteers and students. “Los Angeles kids understand the environmental and moral responsibility of caring for the ocean to which we are all connected, no matter how far inland we are. Let us follow their example and be active stewards of the ocean and the environment by starting in our own neighborhoods.”

In addition to the human mosaic, two Los Angeles Unified School District students had their drawings included in the aerial photos as well. Ten-year-old Carlos Lopez and 11-year-old Ray Aguilera were the Kids Ocean Day contest winners for their drawings on ocean pollution and the importance of keeping the state’s beaches clean.

Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan thanked the children for their efforts.

“You’re part of a statewide effort to clean up all of our beaches along the coast, not just in Los Angeles,” she said. “It’s important to remember that each one of us has a role to play in protecting our beaches and the ocean and the animals that live in the ocean.” Wan told the children that keeping the state’s coastlines free of debris is a team effort.

“When you collect the trash on the beach, you will see that it’s been tossed away by many different people. Not one or two people did this to our beach, and not one or two people are going to clean it up,” she pointed out. “That’s why we’re going to need all of you.”

Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay released its annual Beach Report Card on May 26th and Dockweiler showed very good water quality during dry weather, as did Venice Beach, according to the report.

“In the summer of 2005, 46 points along the coast in Los Angeles received an A grade from Heal the Bay,” Ruiz told the audience. “This year, they gave 72 different points along the coasts of Los Angeles A grades.”

Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education president Michael Klubock also thanked the volunteers and the students.

“The 5,000 kids here were connected to the beaches and oceans by their participation at Kids Ocean Day. Through our program’s efforts, they learned how their actions make a very powerful impact on the world,” he said. “Through our aerial artwork, the kids were also provided a moment to share this connection with the world. They definitely made a statement about their commitment to the environment.”

In preparation for Kids Ocean Day, the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education conducted school assembly programs year-round to teach the students about the importance of the ocean and how their actions affect it.

Keep Los Angeles Beautiful and Whole Foods Market also helped sponsor the initiative.

Kids Ocean Day is a part of the commission’s campaign that celebrates World Ocean Day, which is Tuesday, June 8th. Six other locations in California took part in the May 27th clean-up.