A small toy doll. Foil stars. A toothpaste tube, half empty. Pieces of clothing. And lots, and lots, and lots of tiny pieces of plastic.

Teen Learning Lab students and families descended upon Waukegan Municipal Beach on Sunday with their buckets and work gloves, ready to clean the beach as part of an early participant in the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach 2018 cleanup. Small groups, slowly moved along the beach, counting an cataloguing every plastic chip and cigarette butt.

Some students aimed for large objects, others meticulously sifted through debris tossed on the sand by waves. Along the mile-long beach, kite-surfers and their families took advantage of the strong winds and waves, and on the other end, families watched a soccer game played in the sand in bare feet. A small white dog trotted by, curious but not too curious. Students found many Monarch butterflies that had landed at the beach at the end of their life cycle. Buckets of trash were weighed before joining a contractor bag that grew to be about 40 pounds.

The day was a great way to launch the Underwater Robotics class as it studies water in all its biological glory and geologic manifestations. Thanks to all the families who made the drive to Waukegan!