Every time Michael Klubock ventured out to sea on his small sailboat, hed come back to shore with trash plucked out of the ocean.

Joining the occasional beach cleanups didnt seem like it had enough impact, so he had an idea – get more kids to the beach and give them learning lessons along the way.

  • “Kelp Us” message in the sand on a Los Angeles Beach, made up of students who formed the aerial art installation during the Kids Ocean Day clean up a few years ago. Photo: Kids Ocean Day.

  • An aerial art work made up of students who spend the morning cleaning up trash after spending the school year learning about the impacts of beach trash. Photo courtesy of Kids Ocean Day.

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  • Michael Klubock, founder of Kids Ocean Day, started the educational program to teach children about the impacts on the environment. Photo courtesy: Klubock

  • Thirteen inland schools came together for an annual kids beach clean-up held by Orange County Coastkeeper a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Orange County Coastkeeper.

  • Some of the 1,200 kids from inland O.C. schools that came to Huntington Beach for a beach clean up day load up a bag. File photo/SCNG

  • Approximately 750 elementary school students from Santa Ana, Anaheim, Garden Grove and Orange line up for an aerial picture after taking part in the 16th Annual Kids’ Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup at Bolsa Chica a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Coastkeeper

  • Sophia Flores,of John Marshall Elementary in Anaheim collects trash along with a few hundred school children. Part of Huntington State Beach was one of six beaches along the California coast chosen for the 23rd Annual kids Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup event. Kids Ocean Day educates kids from underserved areas by facilitating trips to the beach to interact with the environment. File photo/SCNG

  • Part of Huntington Beachs Huntington State Beach got a face with the help of hundreds of kids. This was one of six beaches along the California coast chosen for the 23rd annual kids Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup event. Kids Ocean Day educates kids from underserved areas by facilitating trips to the beach to interact with the environment. File photo/SCNG

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He started going to schools in the Los Angeles area more than two decades ago delivering slideshow lectures on how trash on the beach hurts wildlife and the harsh impact of trash as it funnels from inland storm drains down to the ocean. Then, kids would load up on buses and get their hands dirty during beach cleanups, seeing first-hand the devastation of trash littering the coastline.

Twenty-five years later, an estimated 700,000 have heard the environmentally focused presentation at their schools, a program held mostly in California, but it has also reached as far as Costa Rica and Hong Kong.

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Of those, about 160,000 students – many from inland cities – have joined an annual field trip to the beach to take their lesson beyond the classroom and onto the sand.

After a few small-scale cleanups, Klubock turned his group into a non-profit after starting Kids Ocean Day in 1994, teaming up with other groups like the California Coastal Commission, Coastkeeper and other environmental-focused organizations that could help organize and fund the program.

“Your everyday actions have an impact,” Klubock, who lives in Los Angeles, tells the kids. “If you drop a piece of trash on the ground, if it rains, it goes to the storm drain and to the beach … your little piece of something you drop 10 miles away has an impact. Do not drop one piece on the ground, because that can choke an animal.”

Busloads of nearly 4,000 students from 35 Los Angeles-area schools this Thursday will hit the beaches in Dockweiler State Beach, the culmination of a year-long program spearheaded by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education.

The same day, 1,300 students from inland Orange County will head to Huntington State Beach to continue the tradition of cleaning up the coast, clutching bags filled with foam cups and plates, cigarette butts and plastics and then forming a message on the sand using their bodies to form a temporary aerial art installation.

Other cities such as San Diego and, in northern California, Humboldt and San Francisco will have similar events.

This years theme is “Kids Making Waves for a Plastic-Free Ocean,” with the kids coming together to form the message in the shape of a giant wave.

Klubock has trouble picking out his favorite aerial art formation from over the years, but one that stands out was an image of a fish accompanied with the words “Kelp Us,” an idea that was the brainchild of a student.

He said hes seen increased beach pollution awareness over the decades and gets especially encouraged when teachers say their students continue to use reusable water bottles, rather than plastic bottles, years after they finish the program.

But theres still a long way to go, he said.

“I think Ill have a job forever if were asking people not to litter,” he said.

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