NEWPORT — The Surfrider Foundation just gained its smallest members yet.
Olivia Schroeder, a teacher at Sam Case Elementary, has started a Surfrider Ocean Club with her fifth grade class. She and two students from her fifth grade class — Jordan Ingalls and Oliver Peralta — spoke at the Surfrider Foundation’s October meeting about their new club, what they have already done and what is still to come.
The goal of the club, Schroeder said, is to get the students invested in keeping the ocean safe.
“We firmly believe that when you love something, you want to protect it,” said Schroeder. “So the reason why I wanted to start an ocean club is because I thought we could get the youth more engaged in experiences that connect them to the ocean.”
Some of those experiences that have been planned already include beach cleanups and an overnight at South Beach State Park. Ideas swimming around for other potential trips include a whale-watching trip, a surf day and a trip to the aquarium.
“But all of those things are just ways to connect us to the ocean,” said Schroeder. “And that way we’ll want to take good care of it.”
The students spoke enthusiastically — if a little shyly — about their experiences in the club thus far.
“So what I learned is that 75.1 percent of the trash in the ocean is plastic,” said Ingalls. “And that the number one thing is plastic bottles … Plastic bags are the second thing and then food wrappers — those we do not like.”
Peralta explained how garbage makes its way into the ocean — from littering, falling off of boats, the sewers and river pollution, among other things. He also shared a story from the week before.
“So my story is: me and my mom were at Dutch Bros,” he began. “We were waiting in line and I saw this can of chocolate milk that was empty so I went over and picked it up — well, I asked my mom first … and then when I went over to pick it up, there were like 20 or 10 more so I picked all of those up and got my shirt dirty.”
“And why did you pick them up?” asked Schroeder.
“To save the environment,” answered Peralta.
The story was met with applause from the room, and the group then shared about the fundraisers the club is doing.
First, the club is selling beeswax wraps which its members made by hand. These wraps can be used as a substitute for single-use plastics, like zip-top bags and plastic wrap, as well as for replacing lost plastic lids instead of buying more. The wraps come in a range of sizes and prices range from $5 to $10.
The other major fundraiser is a raffle. A surfboard was donated to the club by the Newport Surfrider group and Russo Surfboards, which the club will raffle off once they’ve sold 100 tickets. Tickets are $10 each.
The funds from these efforts will help the club’s ability to go on field trips as well as for stewardship opportunities.
“It really makes my job a lot easier when we get to talk about things that are really important,” said Schroeder about the club. “And this is one of those things.”