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Taking out the Trash


On October 18th, Honors Biology students at Rubidoux High School attended a workshop to kick off a student-centered trash & mapping program called “Taking out the Trash.”

Gracie Torres
Rubidoux students are the first to participate in the program, which asks them to spend two weeks collecting trash observations with a field app called Survery123 then create a map of the data.

“The ‘Taking out the Trash’ program was actually an idea that came about from state-mandated regulations [to eliminate trash and water waste],” shared Gracie Torres, Associate Flood Control Planner for Riverside County Flood Control. “We wanted to know how we could include public education and outreach to high school students who are going to be living with these regulations but also the benefits from the regulations.”

Ms. Torres coordinated the program along with other county agencies and advocates of Sunnyslope Creek, a waterway that is impacted by trash accumulation in the Rubidoux community, and the habitat of a threatened fish called the Santa Ana Sucker. Though a successful restoration project for the creek occurred in 2011, advocates know that to maintain the habitat, the removal and prevention of trash accumulation is a top priority. 

students training“Our goal is that [students] understand that whatever trash is out in an urban landscape is going to eventually end up in their waterways,” said Ms. Torres. “We want to create advocates so that [future regulations are] a collaborative effort to get to where we want to be as far as what our watershed looks like.”

On the day of the workshop, county agencies presented information to students about Sunnyslope Creek, then Ms. Torres trained them on how to use the Survey123 field app to take pictures of trash and record the location. Students were assigned designated areas along Mission Boulevard to collect their observations. 

“I think the most exciting thing about this program is the students will have a real, hands-on opportunity to make an impact in the environment nearest to them,” shared Daniel Johnson, RHS Honors Bio teacher. “A lot of times in science it’s conceptual, but now the kids really get an opportunity to make that impact, to have that immediate difference in what’s going on around them.”

Taking out the Trash students and coordinatorsHaillie Hurst, Honors Bio student, looks forward to supporting the restoration and maintenance of animal habitats. “It’s important for them to have a place to live and it’s important for our ecosystem,” she said. “Because if one thing is messed up, then everything is messed up.”

By way of the program, Ms. Torres hopes that local agencies gain a better understanding of the landscape when it comes to trash. She also wants to expand the program to other high schools.  “But the biggest outcome is that we want the students to build a sense of pride in their community and be more involved,” she said.

It seems like Rubidoux students have the same goal in mind. “It’s our earth and we should be taking care of it,” shared Haillie.