Smiling girls at a beach cleanup

California Coastal Cleanup Day
Educators' Guide

On Saturday, September 17, 2022, California is going to clean our beaches, lakes, and waterways, and we'll also help the ocean by cleaning our own neighborhoods and local natural areas throughout whole the month of September. Coastal Cleanup Day is the largest volunteer event in California and is a part of the International Coastal Cleanup, which takes place in 100 countries and 43 U.S. states. Your kids, classroom, or youth group can be a part of this monumental event! If trash isn't picked up inland, it may find its way into a storm drain and then out to a waterway and eventually the ocean. Litter on land is future marine debris.

If you'd like to safely clean your area, but a weekday works better than a Saturday, that's no problem. Please contact your local county coordinator, or organize a Schoolyard Cleanup.

You can print out the California Coastal Cleanup Day posters to post in community spaces, as well as download graphics that can be used on websites and social media.

The information that follows will provide you with additional resources and activities to enrich Coastal Cleanup Day for your students or children. Please contact us with any comments or questions as you guide your them through this experience:

Educator Resources  |  Creativity   |  BYO For Your Cleanup


Educator Resources

Visit the Schoolyard Cleanup Program webpage for extensive classroom lessons, informational links, recommended read-aloud books, videos, downloadable slideshows, and more. Schoolyard Cleanups can be done as part of Coastal Cleanup or any time of year. Find tips on doing "Schoolyard" cleanups at home during distance learning. We're encouraging people to use the free CleanSwell App to document the important data on the trash you collect, but if you'd prefer a paper data card for your students, you can print your own in English and Spanish.

Alternate Data Collection Methods for Younger Students:



Your students can create art or poetry based on their cleanup experience for the Coastal Art & Poetry Contest. Below are a few questions to help encourage their creative process.

  • What do you do at the beach?
  • What do you see at the beach?
  • What animals live on the coast or in the ocean off California?
  • How are people connected to the ocean?
  • What colors can you see at the beach?
  • What sounds do you hear at the beach?
  • What textures do you feel at the beach?
  • Why do you love the beach or the ocean?
  • What things may harm the California coast?
  • What does the ocean make you think of?
  • How does the ocean make you feel?
  • How can we protect the ocean?
  • Do you have a memory of being at the coast that was special/powerful/sad/comforting/mundane?
  • What would California/your life/your community be like without the ocean?
  • What is California/your life/your community like because of the ocean?
Artwork by Leo Yang, 2012 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest, 9th grade, Arcadia
Artwork by Leo Yang, 2012 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest, 9th grade, Arcadia  

BYO For Your Cleanup

Please plan ahead to reduce the waste generated by your cleanup. Following a "Bring Your Own" philosophy will allow you to save plastic bags and gloves that would otherwise be used during trash pick-up. Assign your students to bring work gloves (if available) and an item from home to use in collecting small trash items. (Larger trash items would need to be carried in bags, or hauled separately.) Some ideas for containers include:

  • Reusable bucket
  • Half-gallon milk carton, opened
  • Cardboard oatmeal cylinder
  • Plastic milk jug with the top cut off
  • Plastic 2-liter bottle with the top cut off
  • Reused plastic shopping bags

As containers are filled, dump them into a central collection site, such as a dumpster, trash can, or large trash bag. The items students brought from home can be recycled after the cleanup, or you can continue to reuse them by providing your students with potting soil and seeds to create a small wildflower or herb planter. Be sure to punch holes in the bottom first.

If your students are packing a lunch to eat during the cleanup, try to make it "trash free." This means that students will strive to include no disposable items in their lunches. (Be mindful of students who receive free and reduced-cost lunches at school, as it may not be within their control to pack a lunch. Presenting cafeteria waste reduction suggestions to the principal or superintendent may a good alternative if this is an issue for your students. If students receive lunch in disposable packaging, making a special point about recycling and composting all possible elements and placing remaining items very carefully in trash cans is a valuable exercise.) Some tips on packing a trash-free lunch:

  • Pack lunch in a reusable bag or lunch box.
  • Sandwiches can be stored in reusable containers or simply wrapped in a cloth napkin or kitchen towel.
  • Smaller items can be stored in reusable containers or tied up in a napkin.
  • Use a thermos or reusable bottle for drinks.
  • Fruit often comes in its own packaging—there's no need for a container for apples, oranges, or bananas.
  • Pack cloth napkins or towels and durable utensils when needed.
  • Avoid single-use items like paper bags, plastic baggies, chip bags, pudding cups, etc. Families can save money and resources by buying larger packages and sending individual servings in a reusable container.
  • Lunch boxes and containers are available for purchase in a range of prices, or food containers and jars can be easily reused to make a free "trash free" lunch kit. Old dish towels can be repurposed as napkins for lunches.
  • If you have access to composting, collect any compostable items like fruit peels and take them back to school after the cleanup.

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