At the head of each path leading down to State Beach from Beach Road, you’re confronted with a brightly colored sign urging you to “Carry In, Carry Home.” There’s a different sign for each of the 48 different paths, and each was painted by school kids from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown Schools. The signs can also be found in local libraries, and on the SSA ferries.
“It’s a tradition that goes back around 20 years,” says Chick Stapleton, who is an executive member of the board of directors of the Friends of Sengekontacket, a not-for-profit organization formed for the purpose of protecting Sengekontacket Pond, State Beach, and Trapps Pond.
Each year the kids from Edgartown and Oak Bluffs schools compete to create signs urging beachgoers to refrain from littering or doing things that upset the ecological balance of the beach area.
Forty awards, both certificates and cash awards, are given to 20 students each from the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown schools by the Friends of Sengekontacket. ”We usually get around 200 or 300 entries from each school,” Stapleton said.
“All the kids are so onboard,” Jessica Johns, an art teacher at the Oak Bluffs School, said. “The art is so phenomenal, the colors are getting brighter and bolder … it keeps me on my game.”
“The theme for the posters had been ‘Carry In, Carry Out,’” Stapleton said, “but the problem was that people were actually being good about not leaving trash on the beach, but they were filling up all the trash bins on the side of the road. So the theme was changed to ‘Carry In, Carry Home.’”
Unfortunately, this year the schools were closed right about the time when the kids would have been working on their posters for this summer, so most of the signs up now were created last year. The kids were incentivized to create the signs not only by the prizes, but in addition, Island Spirit Kayak, which is owned by Stapleton, gave a free gift certificate to rent a kayak to every kid who entered the contest. “We wanted to get the kids on the water,” Stapleton said, “to get them to really appreciate nature.” Since many of the kids have not been working on the signs since school has been canceled, Stapleton said that many kids have been contacting her to see if they can still get the gift certificate if they create a sign, and she told them, “By all means.”
This year for Earth Day, Stapleton had planned to put together an art show at the Sailing Camp showcasing all the beach signs, but that too had to be canceled. Another project that was temporarily put on hold was Nipsy the great white shark. Nipsy is a 21-foot-long sculpture of a great white shark constructed out of beach trash, the name being derived from the shark’s teeth, which were made out of nip bottles. Nipsy was put on a trailer and went along the beach, and was shown at the Ag Fair. This year’s model was going to be a receptacle for the beach debris, showing items like pool noodles and fishnets that wash ashore.
“The beach signs project is still another example of how Island kids are pushing for environmental causes,” Johns said, “like the West Tisbury School kids’ effort to ban plastic balloons, and the Islandwide kids’ effort to ban plastic straws.” Johns says that many people have donated boxes of plastic straws to her, and her art students use them to make projects.
Johns said that she’d really like to shine a light on one of her eighth grade students, Emma Burt: “Emma is an extremely talented artist, and she wanted to design a special coloring page to honor her fellow Oak Bluffs eighth grade graduates. [You can find the page by going to this link.] We will be printing copies of the page and distributing it to our Oak Bluffs School students and families, and encouraging them to color and proudly display it in a window at their home or in their car.” Johns also hoped that local community and business members would print, color, and display it in store windows or anywhere else they can share.
Say it loud and say it proud, the O.B. class of 2020!
And while you’re at it, don’t leave any Fritos bags on the beach.