Elementary exposure: La Jolla organizations help lead lessons

What do the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans and the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association have in common this week? They’re both working with Elementary Institute of Science to bring students from southeast San Diego to La Jolla daily to learn about veterans, topography and more.

The students, currently on spring break from their San Diego Unified schools, are being brought to Mount Soledad in groups daily this week to learn about the veterans memorial and other military highlights and then receive lessons from Munk Foundation and EIS staff leaders on topography and using a compass.

The students are then transported to Kellogg Park at La Jolla Shores, where they visit “The Map,” a lithomosaic depicting the underwater La Jolla Canyon and its marine species and participate in sand studies and other activities.

It’s important for these students to have educational opportunities in places they don’t often – or ever – visit, said Munk’s widow and foundation co-founder Mary Coakley Munk.

Walter Munk’s work as a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego led to groundbreaking observations of waves, ocean temperature, tidal energy and more.

At the end of the first day’s activities, many of the kids said coming to Mount Soledad was the best part of the day, Coakley Munk said. “Because this is a world they don’t even know exists.”

She hopes to have 100 students participate in the program this week, she said. 

“We couldn’t be more elated right now,” said Mt. Soledad Memorial Association Executive Director Neil O’Connell, standing among the more than 6,000 plaques currently displayed at the Veterans Memorial.

Students have learned about a few of the veterans memorialized there, including U.S. Air Force pilot Jacqueline Cochran, who in 1953 became the first woman to break the sound barrier.

“We have this beautiful memorial, and we have youngsters here that have never been over to the ocean,” O’Connell said. “We have an opportunity to share with them these stories.”

The students are from communities often underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math, according to EIS program coordinator Robyn Carlson.

“Most of these students have never been up here. It’s a great opportunity,” she said, as it connected previous science lessons at EIS to the outside world.

“This is now putting all of that knowledge that they’ve learned in the classroom in action,” Carlson said.

Fifth-grade student Jamal Reynolds, 10, agreed:

“This experience has been so great,” he said. “To learn about soldiers that have served in the military? I’d never get the chance to experience this.”

The scientific lessons are “so fantastic and so fun to learn about,” Jamal added.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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