A group of more than 90 students, parents and school staff from Dr. Edward L. Whigham Elementary School and other members of the Cutler Bay community participated in the fourth annual World Wetlands Day on Jan. 31.
Their purpose was to clean up trash from the Coastal Wetlands of Black Point and Biscayne National Park.
They succeeded in removing nearly 500 pounds of garbage from the jetty and coastal wetlands’ mangrove trees in less than four hours, picking up glass and plastic bottles, paper, wood, clothing and even tires, gathering them for proper disposal. During the four years of the project more than one ton of garbage has been removed.
Adrian Delesdernier, a third grade science/ social studies and WAVE teacher at Whigham Elementary was the event coordinator. She said she was pleased with the effort and the significance of the project.
“In a time when we face so many environmental challenges, it is important to remember that people, and especially our youth, can be agents for change for a better world,” Delesdernier said.
The event was sponsored by Youth Service America, as part of the State Farm Good Neighbor Student Achievement Grant and Dream in Green-Green Schools Challenge.
Participating in the project were Maggie Fernandez from Dream in Green, Sarah Martin from the Institute for Regional Conservation, and the United States Coast Guard Sea Partners.
Honored guests who joined the cleanup effort included Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell, Councilmembers Mary Ann Mixon and Roger Coriat, with a special visit from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.
But the purpose of the event was more than just to clean up the area. There also was an educational component, with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary providing demonstrations on boat safety and presenting an interactive exhibit on how long different types of trash take to decompose.
Maggie Fernandez from Dream in Green hosted a light bulb and showerhead exchange, offering new energy saving bulbs and low flow showerheads.
Sarah Martin from the Institute of Regional Conservation provided information on the Coastal Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay wetlands restoration project.
“Whigham Elementary students promoted the event as part of their Semester of Service through Youth Service America and the State Farm Good Neighbors Student Achievement Grant,” Delesdernier said. “Feb. 2 of each year is designated as World Wetlands Day to mark an intergovernmental treaty marked by the adoption of the Convention of Wetlands on Feb. 2, 1971. Since 1900, 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared.”
In addition, 100 Whigham students participated in a poster contest to design the art for the flyer that promoted the event. The five winners were Annabel Gomez, Sophia Arguello, Aaliyah Love, Isabella Soto and Kevin Sotolongo.
Gabriel Radillo, a third grade student, promoted the event at school by delivering a public service announcement.
“Keeping the wetlands safe and clean will help the environment,” Radillo said.
Luis Coto, a fifth grade student at the event had a personal and practical reason for taking part in the clean up.
“We want to protect the water we swim in and the ground we step on,” he said.