The lesson learned cleaning a beach: ‘It’s bad to litter’

Riverhead Charter School kids filled up several bags with garbage they cleaned at Iron Pier beach Saturday
Riverhead Charter School students filled up several bags with garbage they cleaned at Iron Pier beach Saturday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Students from the Riverhead Charter School spent their Saturday morning cleaning Iron Pier beach in Northville with the help of some slightly older students from Stony Brook University.

Emily Markowitz, the president of the Undergraduate Students Club at Stony Brook, said “all the cool clubs were doing outreach programs, so I thought it was time we started doing one.”

She sent a notice to her department head, who in turn notified all the faculty. Dr. Konstantine Rountos, a post-doctoral associate at Stony Brook, was one of those faculty members, and he mentioned it to his wife, Muriel, who happens to be a teacher at the Riverhead Charter School.

Voila! An outreach program is born!

“We gave a presentation last week to the students in the Riverhead Charter School about marine plastics and the problems they cause,” Ms. Markowitz said. “It’s huge.”

The kids filled about 10 plastic garbage bags with stuff they picked off the beach, such as cigarettes, plastic bottles and bottle caps, straws, frisbees, even lobster trap tags, which are plastic. They also kept a log of what they found.

Last week, for Earth Day, those kids, working with Stony Brook students and a non-profit group calls Coastal Stewards, took garbage from home and from beach cleanups and made them into “plastic trash art,” Ms. Markowitz said.

“One group made a T-Rex that had a baseball for a head and a Slurpee Cup for a body,” she said.

“We wanted to involve kids in a local beach cleanup,” said Ms. Rountos. “I think it’s important that kids help keep the beaches of their own community clean.”

Konstantine Rountos and Celestino Pascual pick up trash while another student logs the type of trash.
Konstantine Rountos and Celestino Pascual pick up trash while Jenna Cichy logs the type of trash. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Charter School has students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I learned that it’s bad to litter,” said fifth-grader Rami Lawson. “I saw some dead birds on the beach today and I figured they might have died from thinking that the trash people litter the beach with was food.”

She said sea gulls often eat things left on the beach.

Third-grader Teandre Murray had similar experiences.

“We saw a lot of stuff on the beach,” she said.

[email protected]