It’s about getting kids to fall in love.

That was the theme of this year’s Kids Ocean Day, Thursday, May 23, at Dockweiler State Beach in Marina del Ray, a gathering of 4,000 schoolchildren who spent hours cleaning the beach.

Afterward, they formed a massive heart and sea creatures, and stood side-by-side to make the words “Care For What You Love,” an aerial art installation made from bodies lined up in the sand.

Michael Klubock knows people have heard the messages about plastic being bad for the environment and how trash can create a mess at the coast, killing wildlife. But it’s not just about telling people what the problem is.

“The power is to get these kids in love,” he said.

Klubock started Kids Ocean Day in Malibu 26 years ago. An avid sailor, he tired of picking up trash during his ocean outings and wanted to find a way to have a greater impact.

Since then, an estimated 160,000 students have gone on field trips to the beach, taking their lessons beyond the classroom. Of the students joining Thursday’s effort, about 700 had never been to the beach.

Milly Leon, a fifth-grader at Euclid Avenue Elementary in Boyle Heights, was one student who had never seen a beach before Thursday’s field trip to the coast.

“I though it was a magnificent experience for the first time,” she said. “I really had a good time.”

She found a lot of wood and sticks, and of course, plastics.

“It was a good time dedicating at least one day to the ocean for my first experience,” she said. “We should always be taking care of the ocean, so not a lot of animals go extinct.”

It was the first time Milly’s teacher, Haydee Lopez, had taken her students on the trip.

“It was an amazing experience, watching all the students unite and help clean up the beach and get the message across,” she said, admitting she’s not a big beach person but because her three kids love the coast, she tries to get to the sand once a month.

The weather stayed nice through the day, only drizzling a bit as the students finished up lunch. “It was kind of nice,”  she said.

Klubock said people often ask him if he thinks the ocean is getting cleaner, given how much trash the kids have picked up through the years.

“I can’t say everything is much cleaner or dirtier,” he said. “We know the Santa Monica Bay is much cleaner, the treatment facility is cleaner, there’s more awareness. But there’s more people. And more plastic.”

Instead, he’s focused on the long term, planting seeds of knowledge the students can take with them — hopefully igniting a life-long passion for nature.

“I’m in the love business,” he said.

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