Visitors to St. Johns County Beaches on a recent beautiful Saturday morning saw teams of students canvassing the beach sporting brightly colored teal “IB Life” t-shirts. Before having fun in the sand and sun, about 130 members of the freshman and sophomore classes of the Allen D. Nease High School International Baccalaureate (IB) Program first set about cleaning all 39 miles of St. Johns County shoreline for their sixth annual beach clean up service project. On Saturday, April 6, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. through 1 p.m. students hit the beach equipped with garbage bags, gloves, Ocean Conservancy data sheets, and lots of enthusiasm. Their efforts resulted in cleaner beaches and provided an invaluable opportunity to record a complete snapshot of the condition of the entire St. Johns County coastline captured on a single day.
This Nease IB freshmen and sophomore students’ annual volunteer effort began six years ago as an environmental initiative aimed to reduce the deterioration of the condition of our shoreline environment. Every spring, Nease IB students perform the cleanup of our community’s beaches at the end of the spring break period when our beaches see greater numbers of visitors and larger quantities of trash. The students collect garbage and debris along the entire stretch of shoreline in St. Johns County, analyze the data on the collected garbage, and present their findings to biologists at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Education Research Reserve (GTMNERR). The beach cleanup findings are ultimately used to document the scope of the problem of waste as a part of a larger study on how humans impact coastal and marine ecosystems and the environment. The local Students Working Against Tobacco organization asked the IB students to “Bag the Butts” in an effort to bring the second most prevalent litter found on beaches, cigarette butts, to citizens’ attention. This year students collected over 1800 cigarette butts. It was easy to find, as most of the butts were spread out over only three miles of shoreline.
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