Meet our new Marketing Intern, Christina!

christinaToday’s post comes from ILACSD’s newest Marketing Intern, Christina Etchebarren!

Hey there readers of this blog and fans of I Love A Clean San Diego! My name is Christina, I’m the new Marketing Intern here at ILACSD and I’m so excited to be joining the team and learning from the wonderful staff and volunteers. I am a fourth year Environmental Systems major at UC San Diego, originally from a small town outside of Portland, Oregon. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by environmentally conscientious communities, so it was no surprise that learning about and protecting our environment has turned in to a passion of mine. Letting people know about what we’re up to at ILACSD is a part of my job description and my first assignment was to attend one of our education presentations at University City High School on Tuesday, Feb. 12th.

monica_educationArriving at the high school brought back a strange wave of nostalgia for my carefree, hormone charged, rebellious teenage days and I kind of felt like never leaving. I sat myself in the back row of a marine science classroom trying to blend in inconspicuously as the students noisily settled into their seats. Monica Rosquillas, who is one of our lovely educators, introduced herself and took control of the students attention with a quickness and ease that would impress the pants off of any HS teacher I’m sure; high schoolers can be some of the most difficult crowds to reign in and she did so with confidence that can only come from plenty of experience.

monica_watershedThe presentation began with a lesson on the importance of water, which may seem obvious but sometimes all of us need a reminder about just how vital clean water is to not only our health, but the health of every living thing around us. The rest of the lesson plan was focused on watersheds, water quality and marine ecosystem health. Talking about environmental issues can be an extremely difficult task because you don’t want to come across as threatening or pessimistic and you don’t want present the problem  as overwhelmingly large or beyond help, but you do want to make it seem important and urgent enough to motivate people to care and to take action. The presentation that I Love A Clean San Diego has put together walks the line quite gracefully, and I noticed that even from the back of the classroom, all of the students seemed to stay engaged throughout the entire duration of the talk.

Stomach contents from an Albatross include plastic caps, fishing line, and even a small wooden door knob.

Monica hit the message home by passing around a jar filled with contents from an Albatross’ stomach which included a pen and several other pieces of colorful plastic, I heard murmurs of horror coming from the pupils as they passed the jar around with disgust.  To be honest, although I’ve gone through several years of environmental education throughout my time at UCSD, I learned a lot about watersheds and how important it is that we do our best to keep them clean.

All in all, I walked out of University City High School proud to be a part of such an amazing and inspiring organization and feeling hopeful for our future generations of environmental enthusiasts, and I look forward to the months ahead here at ILACSD.

You’ll hear from me soon, until next time.


Believe it or not, high school kids DO care about our environment!

With many students heading back to school this week and next, today’s post comes from former ILACSD Environmental Educator Alex Mullen-Ley who shares her thoughts on our High School Watershed Education program and what it’s like working with high schoolers!

Let’s be honest: high school kids have a bad reputation. When I tell people that I teach high school students about water pollution prevention, they often say something like, “I could never do that!” It’s easy to stereotype high school students as self-centered and unmotivated. In reality, the vast majority of these kids are open-minded, eager to learn, and willing to help out in their communities.

Local high school students at a recent cleanup

I Love A Clean San Diego’s high school education presentation focuses on the importance of clean water, and is designed to increase students’ knowledge of local watersheds and promote behaviors that prevent marine pollution from urban runoff.  We identify important concepts such as the water cycle, food webs, and biomagnification and relate them to real life issues. We also review the latest information about the pacific garbage patch and help students identify everyday actions they can take to keep their local watershed healthy.

In 2011, ILACSD educated over 9100 students at 36 high schools around San Diego County through this program. It can be tedious talking about the same thing for five or six class periods, but the uniqueness of the students makes each day different. Nearly all of the 9th through 12th graders that I have talked to are genuinely interested in protecting the natural environment.

More than beach cleanups, students can get community service hours doing a variety of projects

Many high schools in San Diego County now actually require community service hours to graduate. So as the educators explain how trash ends up making its way into the ocean, we offer students the chance help at one of our upcoming cleanups.  It’s a win-win situation; ILACSD has more volunteers to clean up the canyons and beaches and the students earn community service hours.

Students learn that small actions like recycling can have a big impact

The watershed education program isn’t the only way that ILACSD is trying to reach out to high school kids. We recently partnered with the City of San Diego’s Think Blue campaign to create a pilot project for high school students to become more active in preventing stormwater pollution. The program gives the students resources to design a project to increase awareness of the impacts from urban runoff on local waterways. At the end of the year we will have a celebration for participating school groups where they can show off their projects and meet other like-minded teens.

When I first realized that I was going to be teaching high school kids, I was nervous about it. I thought that they might be uninterested in the material or might even have a lack of respect for me. I was wrong to prejudge them. The students I’ve talked to as the Environmental Educator are smart, motivated, and make me feel optimistic about the future of San Diego.

Alex’s Goodbye – Becoming an Environmental Educator

Today’s post comes from Alex Mullen-Ley who has been ILACSD’s Environmental Educator for the past year. Alex grew up in San Diego and graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies, focusing her education on fresh water management and political ecology. Alex has been an amazing asset to the ILACSD team and we will all miss her as she moves on to continue her environmental education!

If you had told me five years ago that I would end up teaching K-12 students I would have never believed you.  I didn’t think I had the patience or the temperament required to be an educator.  And yet for the past year I have been standing in front of thousands of elementary school students, high school students, and even adults, teaching them about the causes of water pollution and how individuals can take action to protect the environment and care for their communities.

My time as the Environmental Educator at I Love A Clean San Diego has been an incredible learning experience. It is not easy to inspire 30+ young people, each with a unique background and different strengths and weaknesses, to listen and learn. Looking back on the past year I think it’s pretty unbelievable that only myself, the Education Coordinator, Samantha, and the two part time educators (four people!) spoke with over 30,000 students countywide.

One of the greatest challenges of being an environmental educator is redirecting the conversation away from the “gloom and doom” of the environmental problems and focusing instead on a more positive message.  Some students would groan audibly when they discovered that I would be talking about water pollution prevention, “Aww man, this is going to be boring!” But when I learned to focus my lectures on suggesting simple but tangible things that they could do to help solve the problems, the students were suddenly much more engaged and excited.

Over 1000 students & volunteers brought Alex’s design to life!

My favorite event while at ILACSD was Kids’ Ocean Day. I participated in last year’s event as part of the support staff but this year I was responsible for designing the aerial art and giving assemblies to the participating schools. The assembly was one of my favorite presentations because it was all about empowering students to protect the ocean and getting them excited about the beach cleanup and aerial art. The success of this year’s event is a testament to how well the staff works together. I’m not being egotistical when I say that the event was picture perfect.

Though much of my time was spent visiting schools around San Diego County, I did have the opportunity to work closely with the other staff members at ILCASD. I helped out with cleanups and development events, and worked the booth at countless community events. Because ILACSD’s events always run so smoothly, it isn’t obvious how much effort and coordination go into organizing them. The staff members at ILACSD are very good at what they do, whether that is educating the youth, coordinating events, or managing a fast-growing organization.

I have a good reason for leaving my position at ILACSD- I am going to begin graduate school at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where I will pursue my interests in ecosystem-based marine management. But I am grateful for all of the experiences that I have had as the Environmental Educator and I will miss being part of such an inspired, dedicated, and successful nonprofit. I wish only the very best for everyone at ILACSD and I will continue to attend cleanups and volunteer for other events. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Kids Take A Stand in the Sand at Kids’ Ocean Day

Today’s post comes from ILACSD Environmental Educator, Alex Mullen-Ley.

Kids’ Ocean Day 2011 Aerial Art

It’s hard to imagine that there are children here in San Diego who have never been to the beach before. Many of us take for granted that when it gets hot outside, everyone heads to the coast. One of I Love A Clean San Diego’s upcoming educational programs is giving underserved youth the chance to visit the beach for the very first time.  

On June 7th, as part of the 19th annual Kids’ Ocean Day Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup, ILACSD is coordinating nearly 900 students from eight Title I schools to help clean up the beach and make a visual statement in the sand about their concern for the future of the oceans. This is the third year that ILACSD will be holding the event at Crown Point Shores, and the ninth year that we have acted as the regional coordinators. 

The annual event started in Los Angeles in 1994 by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the California Coastal Commission. The original goals of the program were to increase public awareness of ocean issues and to connect children to the marine environment.  Over the past 18 years, the event’s range has expanded to include 7 cities along the California coast. 

During the month of May, ILACSD’s educators will visit each school to give the students a presentation about the importance of minimizing our impact on the marine environment and to get them excited to participate in the aerial art project.  We will meet them again at the beach on June 7th.  At last year’s event we had almost 200 students attend who experienced the beach for the first time, and we expect to have a similar number this year.  The theme for this year’s Kids’ Ocean Day is “Defend the Sea.” We are keeping the aerial art design a secret for now, but we can say that it will be an exciting first in the program’s history!

We are still looking for adult volunteers to help with the event from 8:00am to 1:00pm. If you are interested in signing up to volunteer, please contact Jemma De Leon at

Environmental Education and Our Nearby Nature Program

Education plays a large part in our mission to actively conserve and enhance the environment here in San Diego. Each year, we conduct a variety of outreach programs to educate youth in the San Diego region about properly conserving our local environment. This helps guide them in developing good habits at a young age, that then become part of daily life and ultimately result in a healthier, cleaner, and more vibrant San Diego for future generations.

We believe that the best way to educate today’s youth is to emerge them in hands-on activities. We want to instill a lifelong appreciation for the local environment by providing opportunities to cultivate a greater sense of responsibility for protecting it.

We provide environmental education and community outreach programs for elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as youth groups. Our Educators uses a variety of media, including presentations, storytelling, and hands-on demonstrations to teach topics such as: 

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Household Hazardous Waste
  • Litter Reduction
  • Used Oil Recycling
  • Ocean and Water Pollution Prevention
  • Watershed Education

We also offer an opportunity to expand their knowledge through place-based learning and nearby nature field trips, which have been proven more effective at instilling environmental knowledge among youth.

After the education in the classroom, we lead them in a service project in their local community, such as trash removal, habitat restoration, and storm drain stenciling to restore local waterways!  We also coordinate nearby nature field trips, where children can better understand and value the nature surrounding them every day. While many adults are able to give an account of a time when they experienced nature as a child, most of today’s children cannot (71% of adults vs. 26% youth according to a study by Manhattanville College conducted in 2004).

By educating our local youth about how they can help preserve our environment, the program will build a stronger sense of community pride and improve San Diego’s natural environment. A cleaner environment means a healthy community, which will improve the lives of all San Diego residents!

Are you a classroom teacher in a grade 3-6? Would you like a Nearby Nature experience for your grade level team? I Love A Clean San Diego is offering two lucky schools the opportunity to participate in Nearby Nature education programs!

What is Nearby Nature?

Educators will lead your entire grade level on walking field trips to your nearest “nature” area, providing guided hikes and standards based outdoor learning activities. This is an excellent opportunity for your students to experience nature firsthand! If you are interested or have questions, please send an email to today!

Nature education improves academic performance. When the environment is used as an integrating context for learning the school curriculum, students have shown better performance on standardized measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, math, social studies, and science. Additionally, teachers have seen reduced discipline and classroom management problems and increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning. Nature experiences help children develop a sense of place in their community and increase awareness of San Diego County habitats. Nature education programs can also increase environmentally responsible behavior, including students’ perceived knowledge of issues and action, environmental sensitivity, and intention to act. – Source: San Diego Children & Nature’s “Nearby Nature School Field Trips” Guidebook