Torrey Pines Elementary School’s Science Discovery Day shares parents’ ‘wealth of knowledge’


To eager and curious eyes, Torrey Pines Elementary School in La Jolla hosted its 25th Science Discovery Day on April 12 after a few years off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of the school’s students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade rotated in small groups through presentations given mostly by TPES parents and other local experts from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, UC San Diego, San Diego Humane Society and more.

Some students learned about the structure of DNA or how ultraviolet light works; others explored sheep brains.

In one room, TPES parent and UCSD professor of electrical and computer engineering Farinaz Koushanfar led students through a workshop on artificial intelligence-based avatars.

In the school’s auditorium, parent and UCSD researcher Nadir Weibel engaged children in a demonstration of “mixed reality.”

The demo was designed to show students the differences between reality and virtual reality, Weibel said, enabling them to explore visualization, graphics and how to “interact with digital information.”

Julie Pilotte, a TPES parent and research scientist for biotech company Amydis, showed a group of first-graders the differences between ice and dry ice and how dry ice goes from a solid to a gas, skipping the liquid form in a process called sublimation.

It’s one thing to tell students about the process, Pilotte said, but during presentations like hers, students “get to see it in action.”

During a presentation on native plants by parent and San Diego Unified School District board member Cody Petterson, fourth-grader Ava Woodhouse learned about edible plants and how to identify them.

“I love [Science Discovery Day] because we get to learn about new things,” Ava said. “So far, we’ve learned about our hearts and native plants.”

TPES parent and physician Tania Rivera chaired the event, saying she wanted to bring it back after the pandemic hiatus to encourage interest in science by her kids and others.

Torrey Pines Elementary Principal Keith Keiper said TPES parents’ “wealth of knowledge” is “an amazing thing.”

“Science is the past [and] the future, and a good portion of our kids that were sitting there will be in a field related to science and their careers haven’t even been created yet,” Keiper said.

“It’s really just such an incredible gift from the community to come in and do this kind of work with our kids, [who] absolutely adore it,” he said. “It’s just another thing that sets Torrey Pines apart and above.” ◆