Summer on the coast often means more time at the beach. However, for a group of artistic students in the Waccamaw area, beach doesn’t mean sunscreen and sandcastles.

After the official end of school, 27 middle and high school students participated in a “Broader Educational Art and Creativity Happening” project also known as B.E.A.C.H. Instead of hiding from school, they worked on several art projects from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for three weeks. The theme this year was “Plastic Pollution Awareness.”

Diana Bucci and Russ Bratcher were the art teachers who guided the students. Bucci said the reason they chose this particular theme is because of the intensity of plastic pollution and its damaging effects on marine life and the environment. To highlight the issue, they used pool noodles, plastic bottles and other plastic items which can become pollutants to create a three-dimensional sculpture.

The results were stunning.

The sculpture was an underwater reef complete with corals, fish, sea urchins and a sea turtle. Of course, it was all made from plastic trash. Through the art, the students even taught the teachers a little something. For example, Bucci said she learned what an angler fish was and that sea urchins have an eye as a result of some of the students’ artistic contributions to the reef.

In addition to the sculpture, the younger students created window pane art while the older students did watercolor paintings.

“I was just amazed,” Bucci said. “They went above and beyond.”

After the art is done being exhibited, the students will take their plastic marine creatures home. Bucci said many plan to make mobiles with them. The reef itself will be reused as well in future art projects.