2017-10-06 / Front Page

Shoreline sweep

Taking out the trash: Cape students clean up beaches
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Paige Long, an eighth-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School shows off an animal bone she found while cleaning up Crescent Beach last Friday with classmates Madalynn Vaine and Esme Song. Crescent Beach was one of 10 beaches student cleaned up. (Michael Kelley photo) Paige Long, an eighth-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School shows off an animal bone she found while cleaning up Crescent Beach last Friday with classmates Madalynn Vaine and Esme Song. Crescent Beach was one of 10 beaches student cleaned up. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – For nearly a generation Cape Elizabeth Middle School eighth-grade students have been putting on work gloves, getting out their trash bags and picking up the litter that visitors have been leaving behind on beaches in town.

Terese Roberts, an eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at the school, said the tradition started at least 20 years ago as part of Coastal Cleanup Week, an international effort that was held last week in Maine in which every year thousands of volunteers clean hundreds of miles of beach across the state and record what is collected/removed with the Ocean Conservancy’s international ocean trash index.


Nathan Brame, left, Evan Gebhart and Jack McKibben scour the sand along Crescent Beach State Park last week looking for trash and debris. The clean up effort is one of two community service projects eighth-grade students do in town. (Michael Kelley photo) Nathan Brame, left, Evan Gebhart and Jack McKibben scour the sand along Crescent Beach State Park last week looking for trash and debris. The clean up effort is one of two community service projects eighth-grade students do in town. (Michael Kelley photo) “We originally coordinated with Coastal Cleanup Week, but it has not always aligned with our schedule, so we’ve moved to setting our own date,” Roberts said.

Although not part of the official statewide effort, the goal of Cape Elizabeth’s effort and the Coastal Cleanup effort is the same: rid beaches of trash and debris and preserve their beauty.

“Cleaning the beaches shows just how much trash and debris is constantly washing up on shore and it’s often ignored by beachgoers. Hopefully the students will be a little more aware when they visit beaches on their own and do their part to have a positive impact,” Roberts said.

It also helps students see their community in a new light.

“Students gain a sense of pride in their community. It’s an important reminder how fortunate we are to be living here in Cape Elizabeth, so close to the ocean. We need to do our part to preserve the beauty of our town,” Roberts said.

Eighth-grade student Jack McKibben said it is important to make sure the beaches of Cape Elizabeth are clean.

“It’s good to cleanup the beach and help the environment,” McKibben said as he, Evan Gebhart and Nathan Brame looked for trash on Crescent Beach. “I have a boat on Casco Bay and there is a lot of trash floating in the water.”

That trash oftentimes makes its way onto the beaches and shorelines up and down the coast of Maine.

“The beaches are beautiful and we are trashing them,” Gebhart said.

Per Noreus, a eighth-grade math and social studies teacher said the annual beach cleaning is one of two community service projects eighth-grade students do in the community every school year. In the spring, students do trail work for the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and remove invasive plants from Fort Williams Park. Some students also volunteer at Preble Street Soup Kitchen in Portland one Thursday a month throughout the school year.

The eighth-grade class, which includes 140 students, picked up debris at a variety of Cape Elizabeth beaches, including Fort Williams, Crescent Beach State Park, Pond Cove, Dyer Cove, Peabbles Cove, Alewives Cove, Kettle Cove, Boat Cove, Zeb’s Cov and Johnson Cove. Roberts said it is not uncommon to find broken lobster traps, buoys, ropes and fishing gear, as well as bottles, cans and plastic bags. Sometime unusual things, such as shotgun shells or boat batteries turn up.

“Some beaches have more (debris) than others. Crescent Beach is a state park so it is cleaned more often, but at some beaches we completely fill up the bags,” Noreus said.

The students’ work not only helps to beautify the beaches, but also serves as an important lesson that is tied back into the curriculum.

“Our science classes talk about the human impact of trash on climate and our environment, particularly the oceans and how it affects animals, plants and ocean life,” Roberts said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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