‘Earthonauts’ Land on Purdy Spit

Their mission: Make a difference.

Tina McKail, KP News

In recognition of World Ocean Day, five Key Peninsula Middle School students organized and hosted a community beach cleanup on the Purdy Spit June 12. The students, Gregory Parshall, Paige Powers, Sophia Sewell, Carson Shipman and Dylan Shipman, are members of the Earthonauts club at KPMS.

The Earthonauts club was initiated by two students, sixth-grader Paige Powers (who is now the social media manager for the club) and her friend, Leighton Starr, who approached Environmental Science teacher Mandie Thorne with the idea of forming a club that would turn what they were learning in class into activities benefiting the environment and the community. Thorne followed up to secure Associated Student Body coverage and the first official meeting was held Jan. 14.

From the end of February through May, the Earthonauts made four trips to Purdy Spit and removed over 270 pounds of beach litter. On June 12, with help from community friends and family, another 155 pounds was added to the total. Since that included a lot of styrofoam, fast-food containers and lids, the volume of trash removed was significant.

The club used a color-coded sorting method for the trash to document what was collected and report it to Pierce County.

Club President Dylan Shipman said, “Environmental stewardship is one of my great passions and it feels good to have a positive impact on the environment and on our community.”

While marking off beach sections to be made litter-free, eighth grader Gregory Parshall echoed Shipman’s ecological and community service message. Parshall added that for him it was a “fun club.”

Vice President Sophia Sewell became interested in community service as a Girl Scout. “I have lived on the beach my whole life; I love being by the water. Dylan is my best friend and we have been doing beach cleanup in Dutcher Cove.”

Sewell, an eighth-grader who plans to prepare for a career in medicine (neonatal care), was frustrated by online learning but credited Covid-related school closures for giving her the opportunity to look at how she learns and why she found school frustrating. She has chosen to be home-schooled and plans to continue home-schooling in high school. She said that she likes the control she has with the “ability to design my own program, and create my own structure and schedule.”

Sixth-grader Carson Shipman, the club photographer, documents Earthonaut activities and posts his work online. His first cleanup photos were taken on a snowy day at the end of February.

The Earthonauts’ mission is to create an awareness of damage caused by pollution in schools and communities, so the club is extending an invitation to the public to join them on the Purdy Spit July 5 to help clean up firework debris. They also plan to follow up the initial sweep to get “late-arriving” trash.

There are also plans for celebrating International Coastal Cleanup Day with another community event Sept. 18.

Updates on Earthonaut activities can be found on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.