Breann Mancilla, 11, a sixth-grader at Robert Frost Middle School in Granada Hills, designed the aerial art of the shark and shield that says “Defend the Sea” during a beach cleanup at the 19th annual Kids Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Clean-Up at Dockweiler State Beach, Thursday, June 7, 2012. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer) (Michael Owen Baker)
PLAYA DEL REY – Poring through hundreds of entries for the perfect design to symbolize his group’s annual cleanup at Dockweiler State Beach, organizer Michel Klubock experienced an aha moment when he got to the drawing by Breann Mancilla of Sylmar.
The ferocious shark armed with a spear and shield not only reflected this year’s theme, “Defend the Sea,” but could be replicated for the human mosaic that has become a hallmark of the seaside event.
“It was so out-of-the-box,” said Klubock, founder and executive director of the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education, who has organized Kids Ocean Day for the last 19 years. “The minute I saw it, I knew that was the one.”
On Thursday, the shark’s image took shape on a huge swath of Dockweiler, created by an estimated 5,000 youngsters bused in from elementary and middle schools around Los Angeles to participate in the cleanup and fun day. l See photo gallery.
A place of honor in the shark’s eye was reserved for Breann, who created the design for her environmental science class at Robert Frost Middle School in Granada Hills.
“When we learned about the condition the oceans were in, I was just blown away,” said Breann, a soft-spoken sixth-grader.
“I wanted to come up with something fierce to protect our ocean, and the shark was the most fierce thing I could think of. Then I gave him a shield to defend himself and a spear to defend his home.”
Breann’s drawing was converted from paper to the sand by John Quigley, who used surveyor’s tape and flags to stake out the design that enabled the thousands of kids to get to the right place in a relatively short amount of time. Best known as an aerial artist, Quigley is the conservationist who, in 2003, camped out for 71 days in the branches of a century oak in Santa Clarita to protest its removal for a road-widening project.
Gracie Martinez, 7, a first-grader at Mark Twain Elementary School in Lawndale, picks up trash during a beach cleanup at the 19th annual Kids Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Clean-Up at Dockweiler State Beach, Thursday, June 7, 2012. The participants also formed a massive kid-designed shark and shield that said “Defend the Sea.” (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer) (Michael Owen Baker)
Kids Ocean Day is the culmination of a year’s worth of classes and workshops statewide held by Klubock’s organization, in collaboration with the California Coastal Commission.
The goal is to teach students about their environment in the hope that they’ll grow up wanting to preserve and protect it.
“Look at these kids,” Klubock said, casting his eyes toward clusters of youths digging in the sand, hunting for shells and playing in the surf during a glorious day at Dockweiler.
“This is the same way I got turned on to the environment. I’m showing the kids something to love. Then we’re teaching them how it’s damaged, and telling them something they can do about it.”
The message came through loud and clear for Adamari Lopez, a fifth-grader at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima.
“I love the fresh air and when the waves come in,” Adamari said. “And if I see litter, I pick it up.”
Michelle Sanchez, who is finishing up second grade at Ranchito Elementary in Panorama City, boasted of picking up plastic cups and forks from the beach before they could find their way into the surf.
“They’re bad for the animals,” she explained. “The animals might eat them and then they’ll die and never return.”
The danger of plastic litter is this year’s message from the Malibu Foundation, an advocate of Los Angeles’ newly enacted plastic-bag ban. Kids have been taught how plastic litter flows into the ocean, killing marine life and polluting the food chain.
It’s a lesson that resonated strongly with Breann.
“I think about the ocean as a place where different animals live,” she said. “And it’s not just their home. It’s our home, too.”