More than 30 preschool students visited Yorktown Beach on May 28 to learn about the environment — and to help clean it up.
The trip was masterminded by York County School Division preschool teachers Carissa Goodnite and Karissa Randall.
Both Goodnite and Randall work with disabled students, and their classes usually visit Yorktown Beach near the end of the school year.
This year, however, the teachers wanted to make the trip a bit more meaningful.
“In YCSD, you try to do a project that doesn’t just affect your school — you try to do something that hits the community,” Goodnite said.
The two teachers saw the beach trip as the perfect opportunity to put that tradition into practice.
Goodnite’s father owns a business on the Yorktown beachfront, and she is a regular patron of the beach.
“I’m down there a lot, and I noticed how dirty the beach was,” she said.
That realization lined up with a unit in her preschool class’s new curriculum, which focuses on the environment.
Goodnite and Randall led their students through the material, teaching them about the “three r’s” — reducing, reusing and recycling — and how things like trash can hurt animals.
“We talked to them about how trash can make animals sick, how it can hurt them,” Randall said.
They emphasized one of the r’s — reusing — by collecting empty plastic water bottles and scrap paper and turning them into aquatic-themed art projects.
“They thought that was really fun,” Randall said.
But the two teachers wanted to do something bigger. They planned out a lesson that would work with the themes they had been studying, and decided to organize a cleanup of Yorktown Beach.
“When we go to the beach, we usually focus on ‘under the sea,’” Goodnite said. “This time, we focused on the environment.”
The teachers invited their students’ parents to come to the May 28 cleanup, and assembled a group of about 80 people to tackle the trash.
The teachers handed out trash bags and gloves for safety and let the students take the lead in cleaning up the beach.
As they neared the end of their work, a county employee arrived to empty nearby garbage cans. Goodnite said the students leapt at the chance to help clean up.
“They took their bags of trash they had collected and help the man put it in the back of the Gator [four-wheeled vehicle],” Goodnite said.
At the end of the cleanup, the teachers took their students to Goodnite’s father’s business — Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop.
Randall said the event was so successful, they hope to make it a recurring trip.
“Many of the kids are going home to their families saying, ‘Hey, why don’t we recycle?’” she said.
Goodnite agreed, but added the students benefited from the visit beyond helping the environment.
“A lot of them never get to take a trip like that,” she said. “Just to let them do it was an amazing experience.”