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San Diego Coastkeeper Offers Lessons For Students, Teachers

Reported by Megan Burks

The nonprofit is helping teachers meet Common Core science education standards while helping the environment, too.

On a recent school day, third-graders at Joyner Elementary School in City Heights sat on blankets covered in dried beans like you'd buy at a supermarket. They tried to pick up as many as they could in 15 seconds using two fingers. The exercise was meant to simulate a dolphin snatching fish out of the ocean.

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Photo by Megan Burks

Third-graders Jade Morris, Jason Le and Benjamin Ontiveros participate in a learning activity on ocean pollution, July 14, 2016.

"So now we're going to do it again — same amount of time, same method," said instructor Julie Earnest. "But this time you guys are going to catch fish all tangled up."

In the second round, students tried to grab beans with rubber bands around their fingers. The activity demonstrates what happens when trash makes it into the ocean and entangles marine life. It also demonstrates academic concepts like cause and effect and scientific inquiry, Earnest said.

San Diego Coastkeeper has crafted six of these lessons for each elementary grade level and is offering them for free to San Diego teachers.

"The real goal there is that in educating students about the problems that we have with our water, that as they grow they'll be leaders and advocate for the environment," Earnest said.

Earnest and others have been visiting classrooms since January to show off the new curriculum, which is called Project Swell. With funding from the city of San Diego's Think Blue campaign and private donors, they've shared lessons with about 4,000 students.

Teacher Thy Caddell said she intends to use the lessons next year.

Her student Benjamin Ontiveros said he plans to pick up litter from now on.

"It’s really sad that animals die because of people throwing trash into the ocean," he said.

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