CAROLINA BEACH -- Earth Day is still more than a month away, but for St. Mary 5th grade teacher Kevin Murphy, every day is Earth Day. He walks the beach just about every day, with trash bag in hand, picking up as much washed-up litter as he can find. "Every couple feet, it's just bottle after bottle, trash, shoes, diapers...it was just killing my heart," said Murphy. To get students in the same environmentally friendly mindset, he's putting them to the test with a trash challenge. The challenge, called 90 days to '09 Earth Day, is open to any student grades K through 12. The goal is to see who can collect the most washed-up trash, and to see who can beat Mr. Murphy. He said, "I'm already at 100 bags and it's been 45 days and my goal is 300 bags, so it's a pretty big challenge." Seven year-old Jack Knott, who's in first grade at St. Mary, is up to the challenge. With help from his mom, Suzanne O'Bryant, he has been working hard to fill up bag after bag. "A lot of Mountain Dew bottles and we've also been finding lots of water bottles and shoes," he said. Jack wants to clean up the waterways in part to save sea turtles. "String has got caught around their flippers and they think plastic bags are jellyfish," he said. Murphy has been teaching the importance of saving the planet for years in the classroom, but said it's time for the kids to get hands on. "I want them now to be active, I want them to be out there, actually picking up, seeing it, and making a difference," he said. Students who take part in the challenge must submit a photo essay of their collections by April 20th. The winner will be announced on Earth Day, which is April 22, at a beach sweep at Wrightsville Beach. The top prize is a new surf board and a week of surf lessons. For details on the contest, email email@example.com or visit http://indojaxsurfschool.com/.
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