For the past 20 years, students, staff and families from the Aucocisco School and Learning Center in Cape Elizabeth have come together for a local coastal clean-up effort.

This week, the group will be at Willard Beach in South Portland.

In addition to protecting the environment, the school sees the clean-up events as a way to foster “an intrinsic sense of social responsibility and community with our students,” Ted Dalton, a special education teacher at the Aucocisco School, said this week.

The goal of the event is not only to pick up trash along the shoreline, but also to document what is found, Dalton said.

“We find that cigarette butts are a continuing issue. We used to find larger items like nets and tires, but that is less so now. Overall, I would say (we find) less real trash now than when we began.”

In addition to the clean-up activities, which coincide with a celebration of Maine Coastweek, Sept. 17-24, students at the Aucocisco School will also be launching two Bevin’s skiffs, which are small boats convenient for rowing, that they built with the help of The Compass Project.

The Aucocisco School, which was founded in 1986 by Harvey and Barbara Melnick, provides “comprehensive services to students with unique learning needs, whether they need a full- or part-time school placement, or an after-school program,” according to its website.

The coastal clean-up is slated for Wednesday, after the Current’s deadline. In addition to Willard Beach, the Aucocisco School has also held clean-ups at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Back Cove in Portland and at Centennial and Sandy beaches on Peaks Island in recent years.

“It has proven to be a success (and it’s) an effective means of connecting our school with the greater local community,” Dalton said. “The students (also get) to see first hand the positive results from taking care of the environment. It never fails to strengthen our smaller school community because we always rally together to serve a bigger cause.”

The staff, said Dalton, wants “each and every one of our students to know how capable and important they are. We want them to feel a sense of personal accomplishment. (And), we want students to practice their social skills in a natural setting.”

The staff at the Aucocisco School also looks forward to this event each year, Dalton said, because it’s a way from them to contribute to “bettering the natural world surrounding us.”

Kate Irish Collins

Students and staff at the Aucocisco School participate in a coastal clean-up in 2014.

Members of the Aucocisco School community at the 2015 coastal clean up event.

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