Led by moderator Stephanie Hibbard, Pace High School’s Key Club took a Saturday morning trip to the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus to clean up trash for International Coastal Cleanup Day. Together with students from FIU and other South Florida high schools, Pace Key Club students dug through mangroves to pick up trash and document species such as crabs and jellyfish.
As students picked up trash out of the trees and water, other students would write down not only the kinds of trash picked up, but also what species they encountered. Hibbard was overseeing and helping out with the cleanup along with her husband, Chris Souza, a social studies and science teacher from St. Lawrence Elementary School.
With the mangroves large, dark, and dirty, students were hesitant at first, but found resolve throughout the day. Hibbard said, “Only 4 to 5 students initially went into the shrub, but by the end, every single student went in.”
When asked why they would take part in this cleanup, Pace juniors Tatiana Dorvil and Zaynah Rodriguez both said that they wanted to try something new. Rodriguez said that the trip even helped her temporarily overcome her fear of bugs out of motivation to finish her work. “I’m putting my fear aside to get stuff done,” she said.
While the experience was certainly fun, it was also sobering for the students to encounter how much trash had been dumped into the water. Students found items such as lip gloss, cans of bleach, and toys, with the most common items being food wrappers and plastic bags and bottles.
“Seeing how much trash there was is an eye-opener,” said Dorvil. “I never thought I’d see sneakers and diapers in there.”
“I think the main purpose here is not just picking up garbage, but having students learn how much garbage affects the environment,” said Hibbard.
Students documented and tallied what kinds of trash they found, with all of the data collected to be sent to the Ocean Conservancy organization, which sponsors International Coastal Cleanup Day. By the end of the morning, they had filled up 10 garbage bags with trash and 5 more bags with recyclable material.
“I think that there should be a lot more cleanups to get this off of the reefs and coasts,” said junior and Key Club vice president, Maya Lora.
The clean-up has been a regular event for Pace’s Key Club over the past few years, as the service club is always looking for ways to help out the community. Hibbard, who also moderates Pace’s Environmental Club, says that she hopes to have a monthly event for each club throughout the school year.