Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SEAL BEACH NWR: Staff and volunteers share the story of trash at the Children's Water Education Festival
California-Nevada Offices , March 27, 2013
Print Friendly Version
Interpretive Ranger Lisa Cox calls on the children to answer tricky questions about effects of trash and pollution on wildlife.
Interpretive Ranger Lisa Cox calls on the children to answer tricky questions about effects of trash and pollution on wildlife. - Photo Credit: USFWS
A student points out the plastic bag on
A student points out the plastic bag on "Dr. Pollution" once she figures out which piece of trash can hurt or even kill a greet sea turtle or a dolphin. - Photo Credit: USFWS

Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) staff and volunteers reached 456 students over the course of two days during the Orange County Water District’s “Children’s Water Education Festival” at University of California, Irvine. Staff used props and costumes to demonstrate the movement of trash and pollutants through the watershed, and discussed with the students ways they could help prevent trash from reaching our wetlands.

Now in its seventeenth year, the festival has helped educate over 7,000 third, fourth, and fifth grade students from the Southern California area. Rotating through booths of 66 different organizations, students were engaged by interactive presentations taught to California State Science Standards, making it a highly-valued and successful event each year.

At the Seal Beach NWR booth, 14 presentations were given to groups of 25-35 students by San Diego NWR Complex Interpretive Ranger Lisa Cox, with the help of Friends of Seal Beach NWR president Esther Cummings, and Friends Board Members Ada Bosjnak, Lori De La Cuesta, Patti Smith, and new volunteer Chrissy Zimmerman.

The presentations gave refuge staff and volunteers the opportunity to engage with students for 15-20 minutes intervals, discussing the deadly impact of trash and pollution on our wetlands and wildlife. Cummings and Bosjnak took turns being “Dr. Pollution” wearing a lab coat affixed with various trash items corresponding to the specific effects the trash has on stuffed animals discussed during the presentation.

Dangers to the sea turtle and dolphin stuffed animals, for example, were the dreaded plastic bag. Students came up to read the sea turtle’s story and guess which trash item was the harmful culprit; then match the tag to the trash pinned to Dr. Pollution’s coat. The same was done with the pelican (fishing line and hook), duck (human food such as bread), and the sea otter (motor oil). The students took turns guessing pollution dangers, and then discussed how they (or their parents) could help prevent these problems that could kill wildlife. This game then inspires them to act on behalf of wildlife and hopefully bring the message home to their friends and family. This presentation was inspired from the same environmental education activity at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge.

Afterwards, an “Enviroscape” watershed model was used to demonstrate how water travels downstream and brings the pollutants, such as oil from our driveways, with it to the beach and our wetlands such as the Seal Beach NWR where some endangered species make their home. The students tested in their knowledge as Cox wrote their conservation ideas up on a flip chart at the end of the presentation. Overwhelming responses were to “pick it up” or “throw it away.” Also “use a reusable bag when shopping” and “fix your leaky cars” were ideas for stopping pollution and saving wildlife.  A couple of students even mentioned that getting a hybrid car instead of a regular car would be a good idea. Almost all of the students remembered the three “R’s” – reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Each teacher returned to their school with a custom-designed San Diego NWR coloring book with puzzles and activities, and also information on the Seal Beach NWR monthly tours.

The festival was a good opportunity to connect with the local kids, and encourage them to hold themselves (and adults) responsible for the trash they may leave behind; because one day it may end up on the beach and harm the special wildlife we value on our public lands.

For more information on the Seal Beach NWR, visit: www.fws.gov/refuge/seal_beach

For more information on the Children’ Water Education Festival, visit:
Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov
Find a Field Notes Entry

Search by keyword

Search by State

Search by Region

US Fish and Wildlife Service footer