Students at WISH Charter Elementary School in Westchester recently joined parents, school administrators and environmental activists to help clean a beach in Playa del Rey as part of the school’s Second Annual Beach Clean-Up-A-Thon.

During the beach cleanup, student and adult volunteers picked up trash and recyclables to help protect the Santa Monica Bay and keep pollution out of its watershed. The effort was organized as part of WISH’s partnership with the Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay.

“Educating very young students about how they can make a difference in their environment is hugely effective,” said Eve Keller, a parent volunteer who also serves as WISH’s service learning coordinator. “When students actually pick up the trash and recyclable products with their own hands, it really hits home the message of why it’s vital that we recycle.”

WISH also partnered with the Surfrider Foundation to get students involved in “Plastic: The Real Sea Monster,” an eco-art project to raise public awareness about the threat common household and single-use plastics pose to the marine environment. The project suggests that the only “sea monster” that should be feared is the trash people allow to enter the ocean, lakes and streams.

Over a two-week period, WISH students collected empty plastic containers to artistically create a giant sea monster. Once completed, the sea monster piece was displayed in front of the school to generate increased community awareness about the importance of recycling.

The eco-art project not only enabled students to understand key environmental issues, it helped them encourage their families to initiate recycling habits, school representatives said.

“It was cool because we got to clean up the beach and build a sea monster,” said 9-year-old WISH fourth-grader Lindsay Anderson about the recycling projects. “Now it makes me think we should bring a trash bag (to the beach) to clean up all our stuff.”