First-Graders to Present Art From Reused Materials to Protect Sea Life – Cabrillo National Monument on March 23rd

by on March 21, 2012 · 2 comments

in Culture, Environment, Health, San Diego

Raising funds and awareness: “Saving Sea Life Exhibition”

By Christopher Dotson

 “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

This message from the 1971 Earth Day campaign should still be ringing in our ears. To this day, this simple fact reminds us how our children’s children still carry the burden of ensuring future quality of living standards for all creatures on the planet.   Teach the children. Inform the parents.

Teaching American youth about “problems and solutions” is probably the best long-term strategy. Thankfully, one dedicated teacher at Audubon Elementary School has been doing just that! Melissa Han’s eighteen first graders are leading the charge and setting an example for us to learn and follow.

Along with classroom presentations from New Ocean Blue, Miramar Recycling Center , and a local environmental artist, Teresa Espaniola, students have been learning ways to reduce, reuse and recycle trash.

Introducing younger generations to alternatives and involving others to re-educate a nation suffering from dependence on disposable plastic, Mrs. Han’s students are helping convert American consumers to more sustainable lifestyles which rely, instead, on reusable materials.

 “Don’t trash our beaches!”

Slogans like the one above represent recent and well-targeted campaigns aimed less at reducing and more towards eliminating superfluous flows of trash, primarily plastics, from further littering our oceans, spoiling our coastlines, and polluting our food chain. While classroom lessons and school projects included a variety of simple conservation methods and practical new consumer habits, the overall objective for teachers, parent volunteers and grass roots organizations include prevention of ever-larger, country-sized garbage patches now growing in each of five gyres (see

One goal for the first graders from Audubon school is to educate others and elevate the problems of coastal pollution – specifically, our superfluous plastics – by raising awareness of five endangered marine species and pink river dolphins. Among those marine animals threatened are sharks, whales, sea turtles, sea stars, and seals.

Together, these first grade students have collected objects which will not soon degrade, re-purposing and transforming beach trash into works of art.

Gathering garbage off our San Diego beaches and selecting items from recycling bins, the children have provided us with an amazing assemblage of environmental artwork. A collection of eighteen 8″ x 10″ canvases, the children have formed their own creative interpretations of endangered marine life – all made from trash.

Students have visited the Cabrillo Tide Pools, participated in beach clean-ups, and studied the harmful impact of plastics on wildlife. They’ve learned, too, about the five gyres and whirling masses of garbage which have traversed our oceans and accumulated in these vibrant oceanic regions.

Take to another level: Taking it personally

Mrs. Han recalls their mutual experience:

 “One morning, I asked my students to look at some resources with me and asked them if they noticed a problem happening among sea life. As they shared what struck them, their questions began to flow. “Why are they dying? Who is doing this? How can we help them?” These beginning questions led us into our research where the students chose an endangered sea animal that they wanted to protect. The students then began not only looking up information that would help their own research, but then they began to find information for one another! As an educator, I have struggled with trying to find what motivates my students to not only learn for themselves but to also create a culture of collaboration. It was finally happening!”

 Fund Raising “Saving Sea Life Exhibition”: March 23rd at the Cabrillo National Monument’s Visitor’s Center

Let’s all follow their example and join together, demonstrating to the Audubon school children how they are not alone in their convictions. The fruits of their considerable time and energy will be displayed and on-sale, March 23rd, at the Cabrillo National Monument’s Visitor’s Center. Proceeds of artwork sales will benefit Cabrillo National Park.

It is open to children of all ages, so please bring your kids, grandkids, “little brothers and little sisters”, parents and grandparents! At 6:15PM, Mrs. Han will offer a public presentation and students will present their art work and vignettes of these endangered animals (presentation in the theater).

   Mrs. Han’s First Graders Present: Project Saving Sea Life Exhibition

 Mission: To save endangered sea animals through presentations and donations given for student artwork created with reused materials.

   When: Friday, March 23rd at 6pm-8pm

 A 6:15pm welcome presentation begins in the theater

   Where: Cabrillo National Monument’s Visitor’s Center,  1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA

  Parking is free: Please let the ranger know that you are attending the exhibition.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

christopher dotson March 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm

As follow up, the kids’ art show and fundraiser was a great success! Approximately 80 people filled the theater, and we enjoyed a full length presentation facilitated by Mrs. Han’s first graders. Smartly informative and equally creative, each student presented their artwork, and authored an appropriate caption describing the endangered sea creature now threatened by human waste and garbage so abundant in their ocean homes and habitats.

While it is yet to be determine actual proceeds and amounts being donated to the Cabrillo foundation, the dollar amounts scarcely could match the energy and enthusiasm expressed by all participants and volunteers, nor could any amount of finance give greater reward to all involved. For their courageous efforts, these kids have learned a great lesson, and they have become part of something worth remembering, along with the Honorary Junior Ranger buttons and status bestowed upon them by the foundation and head wild life ranger.

Way to go Mrs. Han’s class of 2012!


Teresa Espaniola April 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Chris, thank you for your article on this event. It was good to see you there! The kids and their artwork raised over $750 for Cabrillo National Monument park and were well prepared with information to share by Mrs. Han. Communities prove to be powerful entities yet again. ~ Teresa


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: