Students at Pacific Beach Elementary are fortunate to have two supplemental science programs: San Diego Youth Science, led by Stacy Circuit and Danielle Adler, and Project Lead the Way, led by Dr. Susan Weinshanker.
PBE is in its second year of the Project Lead the Way grant, which provides students with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) units of study, and introduces them to computer science (coding), biomedical studies, and engineering.
Dr. Weinshaker works with every grade an hour each week in the new maker’s space at the school. Trained as a biochemist, Dr. Weinshanker has been a teacher and school administrator since 1984. She’s taught elementary school, middle school, and high school, including a number of years at Mission Bay High School, where she earned teacher of the year twice.
Recognizing that the grades have different needs, Dr. Weinshanker created six different curriculums for each grade at PBE, all tied to the national science curriculum. While kindergartners are learning about design and function, discussing the engineering involved in building a house, first graders are learning about design in the animal kingdom, including camouflage and defense, like the ink from an octopus. Second graders are looking at the structure and function of the human body, exploring things like “why do humans have two lungs?” In the third grade students are working on programming and coding, fourth graders are investigating energy and collisions, and fifth graders are learning about germs: how they are spread and prevented.
In addition to teaching science, Dr. Weinshanker helps with bus duty twice a week and participates in school activities like the Turkey Trot. She lives nearby, in Bird Rock, and is thrilled to be back in the community, teaching.
“I’m really excited to be here,” she said, “the school has wonderful parents, and kids who really want to learn.”
One of the things Dr. Weinshanker loves to see is young girls excited about science. She thinks it’s helpful for them to see a female teaching science.
“We need more women in science,” she said, “and these girls are so intelligent and excited to come to my room and do science.” Their excitement, and the enthusiasm of all the students of PBE, is the first step in a lifelong curiosity about the world around us and how it works.