GREENFIELD — Alongside the beautiful Arroyo Seco River on a mild November morning, a picturesque scene awaits its visitors. Yet, only a few feet away lay bags with hundreds of pieces of litter — 251.3 pounds to be exact — from Styrofoam bearing popular fast food logos and glass beer bottles to broken strollers.
This captivated the students of Vista Verde Middle School and Oak Avenue Elementary School’s student council and continues to motivate them to improve the environment in their community.
Thanks to the hard work of teachers at Vista Verde and the generosity of the Marine Sanctuary and Ocean Guardian Grant, the students have become stewards of the Arroyo Seco River this year, observing seasonal changes and thinking about how water quality changes over time by measuring water quality, and by keeping abreast of current events about human activities and the river.
Cleanup Days take place on the second Saturday of each month. The Green Grizzlies at Vista Verde have now extended their recycle, reuse, repurpose activities to include watershed quality stewardship projects.
These new projects focus on reducing trash pollution at its source and developing an outreach strategy to include hands-on trash collection and assessment, community participation and advocacy, and targeted messaging.
The message was clear to Vista Verde Middle School student volunteers as they counted and assessed what they found downstream by toxicity, material and brands, including plastic Styrofoam pieces, silver-lined chip bags, six cigar filters, cellophane wrappers, cigarette butts, large metal pieces, rubber gloves, plastic bags and broken glass bottles.
“I learned there is a fair pollution level and a large amount of Styrofoam in the Arroyo Seco River,” said one student.
Another student said, “There is a lot of waste dumped in the river daily, but by using trash booms and measuring certain levels of harmful substances in the river, we can all reduce the amount of waste.”
“The health of the Arroyo Seco is not good, and we all need to work together and stop this from getting worse,” added a fellow classmate.
Thanks to Ms. Antunez, Ms. Reyes, Ms. Allen and Mr. Meyer, Vista Verde Middle School Ocean Guardians and the Oak Avenue Student Council, the work has already begun to spread the word about the negative effects of trash on the environment.
In December, the Ocean Guardian Club will continue its educational campaign in the community of Greenfield, hanging posters and communicating to local businesses about the importance of recycling and eliminating single-use plastics.
On Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. students will host a Vista Verde Middle School campus cleanup and then plan to return to the Arroyo Seco River in January to expand the cleanup.
Beth Meyer is the assistant principal at Vista Verde Middle School in Greenfield.