La Jolla students warm to global issues

Joan Boyle said she thinks books only teach her third-graders so much about the environment; the rest they should learn by going outside and studying it themselves.

On the grounds around La Jolla Elementary, she guides her students through the recording of weather measurements, checking them against 2010 base figures for the area and seeing if they demonstrate a warming trend. (They have so far, by an average of 9 degrees.) They also planted a garden of rice as part of a lesson in sustainability.

“What I’m proud of is the fact that these children are really starting to understand and make a difference,” Boyle said, adding that all La Jolla Elementary teachers recently agreed to take up one issue of sustainability with their students.

The experiments are part of two Fulbright Scholarship teacher exchange programs Boyle signed up for this summer, for which she spent six weeks in Japan and Thailand. Boyle and teachers from other cities and countries post results of the same experiments at the same time. “I cannot thank (Fulbright) enough for my opportunities and I am devastated that the government is now talking about reducing these funds, which in my mind would impact these opportunities and the education of U.S. students,” Boyle said.

As part of the programs, Boyle’s students recently performed a trash clean-up at La Jolla Shores. Instead of throwing out the trash — which included a Rubio’s salad spoon and a beer glass — they plan to analyze it to determine whether any was deposited by ocean currents and where it came from. Then they’ll turn it into recycled art to bring awareness of what pollution does to marine life and water quality.

“I’m trying to get them to think globally,” she said. “Whatever happens here, it’s not in isolation.”