News & Announcements

12/20/08: Hansel & Gretel at Stella Adler

They let us come back! The final numbers aren’t in quite yet, but it now looks like nearly 200 hundred kids rode the rails with us to Hollywood last week for three separate performances of Hansel & Gretel at the Stella Adler.

As regular News and Announcements page readers know, we are not strangers to this conservatory and theater, located a comfortable yodel or two from the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station. Theater staff invited a Miramonte Elementary group to see A Christmas Carol here in 2006, and then renewed the invitation for three showings of this Dickens classic in 2007.

This year’s offering: a cheery, modernized Hansel and Gretel. The Stella Adler gave us thumbs up to start booking in late October, and teachers snapped up all available matinee slots within days of receiving the announcement.

Please click on the photo of the arriving troops to see shots of our visit there on December 15. Thank you, Stella Adler, for making this experience possible!

11/13/08: Aquarium Watersheds Exhibit

First, just so you won’t have to do any furtive browsing on dictionary dot com while reading this entry:

What’s a watershed?

An area where all the surface water drains to the same lower destination, such as San Pedro Bay according to the Aquarium. Just about everyone lives in one, long term space shuttle residents excluded.

And, as of this Saturday, November 15, teachers can choose a new field trip destination to help teach about watersheds and the water cycle: Our Watersheds: Pathway to the Pacific.

The grand opening ceremony was yesterday, and we were on hand along with the press and local dignitaries to mark the occasion. You’ll find more information and some great photos of the kids in online articles at the Orange County Register, the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Long Beach Gazette.

The debut of Our Watersheds marks the single largest addition to the Aquarium since Shark Lagoon opened in 2002. We didn’t venture into the classroom -- which is carbon neutral, and which the Aquarium anticipates will receive an LEED platinum rating for green design – but did spend about an hour in the outdoor portion of the exhibit. The main attraction here is a sculpted, almost handball court sized model of the Southern California basin, replete with molded mountain ranges and rivers descending to San Pedro bay. Press a button, and rain falls, allowing kids to see the passage of H20 from cloud burst into the Pacific.

According to the Aquarium's online information page, public hours are from 9:00 to 6:00 on weekends, and from 1:00 to 6:00 on weekdays. Weekday mornings are set aside for school groups. If you want to take in this new exhibit during a weekday trip here, please don’t be shy about saying so when you request a date.

11/3/08: Cars returned to Angels Flight

An article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times has details. One look at the photo below -- of a group doing the Mount Everest march from Grand Central Market to the Wells Fargo History Museum, atop Bunker Hill -- and you'll understand why this is big news for us. Children do like to exercise, but not this much.

John Welborne of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation hesitates to offer a grand re-opening date, but with the cars back in place, how long can it be?

Later this year, if we're lucky, or early the next. Expect us to be frequent and grateful customers.

10/28/08: Augustus Hawkins Nature Park

  Augustus Hawkins Nature Park: If you’ve visited our trip stats page recently, you might have noticed three October entries for a new destination ... or, at least, a new destination for TransitPeople: Augustus Hawkins Nature Park. Some South Los Angeles teachers know this attraction well, but here’s some introductory information for teachers who haven’t yet visited.

What, part I: an eight and a half acre nature park, replete with stream, hills, walkways, and an education oriented discovery center.

What, part II: they offer educational tours. Classes that visited with us in October examined specimens in the discovery center microscopes, toured the grounds with a park ranger and even did some bird watching. Hummingbirds, blue jays, and mourning doves all can be found here.

And, within reason, the educational tours can be tailored to the curricular needs of visiting teachers. They can’t provide a formal City Wildlife program yet, but might be able to put together an offering that could serve nicely in a pinch.

Where: For us, this is certainly the best part. The park is near the northeast corner of Slauson and Compton, a comfortable stroll from the Slauson Blue Line station and yodeling distance from the #55 bus stop. If you teach in South L.A. or have good rail access, you probably can get here.

  November/December Special Event Weekend Trip Ideas: The list is now online.

10/8/08: Google Gadget and GoodSearch

Now that the catchy alliteration in the headline has caught your attention, on to a few admittedly self-promotional announcements:

  Google Gadget: If you’ve set up a personal start page on igoogle, you probably already know that it can be decorated with maps, clocks, weather forecasts, webcams, fitness tips, mp3 players, national debt calculators and other internet era bric-a-brac from points hither and yon. (And if you didn’t know, well, you owe us one. A directory of the better-known offerings is here.)

To that long list may now be added an electronic gizmo of our very own: the official, genuine, only-one-of-its-kind TransitPeople field trip photo of a day google web gadget. Click on the rainbow-hued oval button at bottom left of the photo below, and, if you’re signed in to igoogle, the TransitPeople gadget should shortly appear on your igoogle page.

(And if you’re not an igoogle user or not signed in, clicking should only harmlessly exercise your mouse button: nothing will happen.)

Expect the featured photos in the gadget to be smaller, captionless and older than those on the home page photo of the day, at least initially.

  Speaking of Google: we are the grateful and fortunate beneficiaries of a Google Grant ! Figuring out how to craft a suitable online campaign for this grant has been a bit of a headscratcher, but the light of inspiration undoubtedly will dawn one of these days, and then you can look for us in a big gleaming NABI of our very own during our next Tar Pits trip.

  GoodSearch: You’re always free to browse over to our donate page and send a shockingly huge bequest our way – and do feel free, honest, we won’t mind a bit – but if you’re feeling less generous than that, you can at least toss TransitPeople an occasional penny . Here’s how:

Click on and bookmark this link:

...and call it up in your browser every once in awhile when you want to search for stuff.

Use it to search for anything at all. Aardvarks or NCLB, maybe, or epigenome or Abbot Kinney or you name it. Every time a search is performed with this link, GoodSearch will add a penny to our account. If the yearly total is $20 or greater, we’ll get a check. If not, they’ll divvy up the pennies among other participating charities.

You also can just browse to GoodSearch and enter TransitPeople as the beneficiary, but bookmarking the link will be easier. (At least for us.)

9/10/08: Aquarium Open House for Teachers

... and just for teachers, you lucky educator, you. October 15, 2008, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, a fifteen minute walk from the Blue Line's Transit Mall station.

Meet Aquarium staff, enter a raffle, stroll unhurriedly among the sharks, seals and sea lions in the closed-to-the-general-public Aquarium galleries, with only your fellow pedagogues to keep you company.

Reservations required: call (562) 951-1630.

How much? Ab-so-lute-ly free. Not related to TransitPeople, but too good not to list.

8/29/08: September/October Trip Ideas

  August is almost over, summer is in late middle age, and that must mean it’s time for another bimonthly edition of Ye Olde TransitPeople Special Event Weekend trip ideas list, this time for September and October.

Inside: four aquarium festivals, four Central Library matinees, two Music Center concerts, four festivals at MoLAA, one at the Getty, one at JANM, the colossal once-a-year festival on Grand Avenue ... and a bunch of other stuff. Good other stuff. All yours. Just click. Nothing to read over lunch in the cafeteria tomorrow? Problem solved.

  A quick note just for East Los Angeles schools, and especially Winter Gardens: the mid-year changes in Atlantic Boulevard bus service worked in our favor. Trips to the Norton Simon, Huntington, Arboretum and San Gabriel Mission should be a bit easier than in years past. Now you know.

6/27/08: July/August Trip Ideas

If you're teaching this summer and think your students rate a weekend field trip, please consider the offerings listed in the July/August trip ideas list, now online. Nisei Week returns to Little Tokyo, as you'll see, and the Central Library will once again offer Saturday matinees in their Taper auditorium. Inquire about one, inquire about several.

(If the link above doesn't work, and your monitor supports touch screen technology, just pinch the highlighted words "trip ideas" carefully between thumb and forefinger and swing your wrist toward the printer in a casual, flicking motion.)

5/21/08: Thomas the T-Rex Lab

At the receiving end of a bit of paleontological dermabrasion in the shot above are the fossilized remains of one Thomas, a T-Rex who trod the tundra here about sixty-six million years ago. Thomas now stars in Thomas the T-Rex lab, open since March 30 in the second floor directors’ gallery at the Natural History Museum.

That’s the good news.

The bad news ... or not so good news, or good news requiring an ability to accept delayed gratification that, admittedly, is observed rarely in grade schoolers: the Dinosaur Halls here are closed, and will remain so until the NHM unveils new and improved Dino Halls in 2011.

Mutinous five year olds who expect to see dinosaurs can howl pretty loudly, so NHM staff may have had to open T-Rex Lab to keep their bellows from frightening away other customers. In any case: if your students crave to commune with the beasties of the Mesozoic era, you still can take ‘em up here. Second floor. No reservations required.

We set a new participation record last year, and already have chaperoned a whopping thirty-five percent more kids in 2008 than at this time in ’07. If you hanker after an end of the year trip, feel free to send it in ... but be forewarned, our calendar of upcoming trips is already high-density. It might take a bit of doing to find you a date.

(For valuable background information on public school field trip availability in 2008, incidentally, please see this article in Monday's Los Angeles Times. Positive word-of-mouth among teachers drives most of our growth, but some teachers we work with have reported significant cuts in regular school bus trips, too.)

With two end-of-the-school-year trips to the Huntington on the schedule, it’s time to quickly revisit transit access to this spectacular destination near the #79 line.

Yes, the #79 is still the primary route to get here. Battle-scarred veterans of these News & Announcements pages may remember a 2005 post about the subject. But it is possible to get here by rail, too.

P o s s i b l e. Please note the choice of the adjective. Not easy. Possible. If you teach near the Gold Line, want to travel with a group too large for a bus trip and simply must visit their spectacular Botanical Science Conservatory for an earth sciences lesson, TransitPeople can get you here ... with a forty-five minute walk each way south and north on Allen Avenue from the Allen Gold Line station.

Forty-five minutes. Now you know. Please take the weather into account when you send in the request, and, for a weekday trip, figure on an after-the-end-of-the-school-day return.

4/29/08: Reduced hours at Olvera Street

Of course, you always can drop by to see the pobladores plaque or the Felipe de Neve statue, but if an educational field trip is what you're after, you'll want to do your dropping by when the main Olvera Street attractions are open.

They're now open less often, thanks to the city's ongoing budget woes. The new hours:

  • Avila Adobe: Wed. - Sun., 10 - 3
  • Firehouse Museum: Tue. - Sat., 10 - 3
  • CAMLA: Wed. - Sat., 10 - 3
  • Sepulveda House, Mon. - Fri., 9 - 4

An article in the Downtown News tells more. Read it and weep.

If you're up for a weekend field trip in the middle of CST testing season, you'll want to look over the May/June special events trip ideas list, now online.

4/20/08: Heritage Square Tours

At long last, a trip to Heritage Square! We visited for the first time a few days ago and should return at least twice in the months ahead. If you've been pining away for a field trip to compliment your OCR1 grade 5 Heritage or grade 1 Homes unit, then a guided tour at this one-of-a-kind Mount Washington facility might be for you.

For the many who haven’t been: Heritage Square is a kind of graveyard for old mansions. The 1887 Hale House, an 1893 octagon house, a vintage rail depot and carriage barn –- you’ll find them all here, along with a friendly guide to lead the way. The online tour page tells more.

Tours can include vintage games -- wood hula hoops! -- and some old fashioned dress-up in period costumes. (Which explains the headwear in the shot above. You're not going to start seeing lots of photos of kids wearing derbies around transitpeople dot org. Sorry.)

Correspondence to OCR: grade 1 Homes, grade 2 Our Country and Its People, Grade 3 Country Life, Grade 4 Changing America and Grade 5 Heritage.

Transit access: They’ll open up the back gate just for us, which puts this destination within yodeling distance of the Heritage Square Gold Line station. (Otherwise, we’d face a stiff twenty minute walk to the main public entrance on Homer Street.)

Teach grades 3 or 4? Lucky you, you qualify for Heritage Square’s special Golden Visions package, which includes twelve to fifteen free pre-field trip class lessons, and a visit to your class by a Heritage Square docent.

1OCR = Open Court© Reading, the mainstay of language arts instruction for Los Angeles Unified schools. Correlation to OCR theme units – or Houghton Mifflin theme units, for teachers in Montebello Unified -- drives much elementary school field trip booking in 2008, and has for the past several years.

Maybe it shouldn’t be that way. Many teachers are less than fond of OCR, to put it charitably. But for now, that way it is.

4/14/08: Coastal America Ocean Art Contest

You want to cultivate the artistic talent of that budding young Kandinsky at table two, and offer him or her a chance to nab a free ticket to the Aquarium? Esteemed teacher, consider this: sharing information with your class about the Coastal America Ocean Art Contest.

You'll need more information, of course; it's here. One submission per student, and a free Aquarium ticket for each submission. (The Aquarium is the regional host.)

Not affiliated with TransitPeople, but these pixels thought you'd want to know.

4/4/08: Trip Leader training at the Aquarium

That's Aquarium education staffer Alie LeBeau in the shot below, about to dole out some tasty kelp wafers to some lucky fish in the Aquarium's Tropical Pacific gallery. The occasion: the first-ever, just-for-trip-leaders site training, which nine of us attended at the Aquarium last Saturday morning.

Why a training just for trip leaders?

Look over our stats pages and you'll see why. We booked over fifty Aquarium trips last year and have chalked up twelve so far in 2008. (We're even linked on their school programs page.) This was, is and will remain a favorite field trip destination, and it stands to reason that trip leaders will conduct groups here more capably if first supplied with background information from the Aquarium's expert staff.

Hence, last Saturday's training. Alie started us out with an introductory session in the Aquarium's classroom, then led our group on a behind the scenes tour of the water filtration system and the not-usually-seen-by-the-public feeding and food preparation areas.

As for trainings at other destinations: nothing definite is on the calendar, but it's a good idea and it ought to happen again. Stay tuned.

(A big, grateful tip of the transit pass to trip leaders Laura Acosta, Arianne Campbell, Susan Courtney, Noelle Markus, Maria Miranda, Matt Ortiz, and Richard Rogers, for coming out to Long Beach for this at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning. If only the kids knew ...)

3/25/08: Impressions of Body Worlds

With two Body Worlds trips under our belt and more in the planning stages, it’s time to share a few impressions from those who’ve already been:

  • Consider this trip for a health unit. Lecturing kids about the perils of big people vices can’t compare to showing what those vices can do to the internals: an alcoholic’s cirrhotic liver, a chain smoker’s ravaged lungs. A visit to Body Worlds today may cost R.J. Reynolds a client tomorrow.
  • You might have to wait. A group with an 11:15 a.m. booking didn’t get in until 11:45. Mind you, this happened the day after the grand opening; crowds undoubtedly will thin as Body Worlds continues. But don’t expect to be alone in there.
  • One group spent an hour and a half at Body Worlds, and could have lingered longer. Another felt that they saw what they needed to see in a fraction of that time. The likely moral: prep your class with related lesson material and they’re likely to be much more on task while there.

3/10/08: Farewell, Aquarium shuttle

Exit the Blue Line at First and Pine, walk to the corner shuttle stop, and step on a Passport shuttle for a fast, five minute ride to the aquarium. That's how our aquarium-bound travel groups have journeyed from rail habitat to fish habitat for eons now.

Alas, not anymore ... or not nearly as often. Long Beach Transit has merged two free shuttles -- the Aquarium shuttle and Queen Mary shuttle -- into one, considerably longer route: the reborn Passport Shuttle C. Their Passport page has details.

Pro: This probably saves money. Con: Unfortunately, the revised shuttle route is now so long that it's easier just to walk (as these obviously-in-agony kids are shown doing after an aquarium visit last Friday).

South on Pine to Bay Street, right on Bay to Aquarium Way, and south on Aquarium Way to the aquarium. Maybe fifteen minutes to, fifteen minutes from. Bring your pedometer.

Future trip leader directions will be revised accordingly. Some teachers will opt for the shuttle still, especially when traveling with primary groups, but we're unlikely to ride it nearly as often as in years past.

3/3/08: Body Worlds returns ... the Science Center in Exposition Park on March 14, and should remain through the summer.

Pro: As good as it gets for an upper grade Life Sciences field trip. Think Open Court© Mystery to Medicine, and a fat chunk of the Life Sciences content standards for grade 5. Body Worlds offers 200+ exhibits, a typical walk through time of 1½ to 2 hours, and a special focus on the human heart.

Con: Like the far less celebrated corpses at the county coroner, the bodies at Body Worlds are à poil. Unattired. Unready for the catwalk at Milan. (Not that they care anymore.)

Science Center letters in English and Spanish address parent concerns. Many elementary school groups already have scheduled Body Worlds trips separately from TransitPeople, but please do check with your administrator and parents before booking this one with us for your upper grade class.

2/24/08: Visiting the Observatory

With three TransitPeople Observatory treks now safely in the past tense, it's high time to post a few sage words for teachers contemplating a visit here:

  The LADOT shuttle runs weekends only, which is also when the Observatory opens at a more-hospitable-for-school-groups 10:00 a.m. You can visit Monday – Friday, but must contend with a 12:00 noon opening time ... and, more importantly, brace your charges for a one solid hour uphill march from the Hollywood-Western subway station. Absolutely, positively not a hike for the little ones.

  The shuttle can board one TransitPeople travel group at a time. Shuttle passenger loads vary, in our limited experience and according to a few informal estimates provided by Observatory staff.

We might have to stand, one of these days. It could happen. One does not know these things in advance.

  Only one touristy Red Car replica shuttle bus serves the Observatory route, and this shuttle may be more cantankerous than the plain vanilla DASHes (DASHs?) plying the roadways elsewhere. The wheelchair lift went kablooey (kablooie?) on January 19. On January 26, our group met several profoundly unhappy transit riders while awaiting the southbound 1:46. Their 1:11 shuttle had never arrived ... the victim, it turned out, of a malfunctioning door.

  The courteous-as-can-be shuttle operators can’t do much about the horrendous traffic logjam the southbound shuttle must plow through at Los Feliz and Vermont. Expect the start-of-the-day northbound, to-the-Observatory shuttle to arrive on time, but the southbound shuttle to reach the subway station five minutes or more behind schedule. If Vermont/Los Feliz gridlock is even worse than usual, the five minutes can stretch into fifteen, which can throw the shuttle schedule out of whack for hours afterward. The timetable needs tinkering.

(And sorry, kids: the shuttles lack hydraulic equipment to pogo stick effortlessly over traffic snaggles. Grown-ups just don't think of accessories like that. Maybe when you're older and run for elected office.)

  The observatory is more crowded than the LACMA or Norton Simon galleries on a typical weekend, less crowded than the Aquarium on Saturday afternoon, and much less crowded than the Science Center on a June weekday morning. Those fuzzy estimates will have to do, until we bring along calculators and make everyone at the observatory stand still for people-per-square foot tallies. You’ll be able to manage just fine, experienced teacher that you are.

  This is a rock solid educational destination. It’s hard to believe that at least one gold digger didn’t try to commercialize / sleaze up the Observatory during the renovation process -- Roll a lucky 7 in the Colonel's lounge? -- but if this villain existed, his or her nefarious entreaties were firmly resisted. A high school science teacher could have designed the place.

There is a tasteful gift store. There is a reasonably priced cafe. Just about everything else here is geared toward teaching students and adults about our solar system and the stars beyond. It’s like walking through an NSTA exhibit hall.

(One small complaint, for fellow L.A. history buffs: the ‘about the observatory’ movie in the Nimoy theatre glosses over the very difficult life of Griffith J. Griffith. Mike Eberts' Griffith Park: a Centennial History tells the moving true story, if you can find a copy.)

  Discreetly-clad guides can be found in most Observatory galleries, politely fielding questions from grown-up astronomy buffs, and the probing How long could Batman survive on the sun? questions likely to be offered up by children. Some guides don't feel comfortable presenting to large kid groups, but others do, and may be able to offer informal mini-tours of gallery exhibits, as their schedules permit. These are a real bonus for a visiting teacher. It can't hurt to ask. (Look for Matt or Angelica, if visiting on a weekend. They're terrific.)

  If no museum guide is available, expect primary kids and second language learners to struggle with the vocabulary accompanying most exhibits. The observatory doesn’t have a Little Kids corner. The target audience appears to be upper elementary and older.

  Only the Getty Center rivals the Observatory's spectacular views. Prepare for at least a few moments of wide-eyed, open-mouthed wonder, if visiting for the first time on a clear day.

The March/April weekend special event trip ideas list is now online. Will we ever get a Heritage Square booking? Probably not right away, but check the trip stats pages in March to see.

1/9/08: Our tenth year begins

We might not be old enough yet for the Denny's seniors discount or an AARP card of our own, but the beginning of our tenth year does seem like an appropriate time for a g o l d e n  o l d i e s photo album.

Saturday, February 27, 1999 is the file date of the shot below, snapped at the Los Angeles Zoo during the first-ever official outing of the newly-formed TransitPeople. Bill Clinton was president, the Twin Towers still stood, and many of our current grade school clients existed only in an incorporeal, gee-maybe-we'll-have-kids kinda way. In the future tense.

Click on the picture for a few other 1999 photos. We were logo-less and jersey-less, for most of our first year. Also, everything was in black and white in those days, as you can see. The first colors didn't appear on earth until shortly before the birth of today's 5th graders.

Other start-of-2008 news:

  4,259, count them, 4,259 children traveled with us on trips in 2007, a whopping 23+ percent increase over our previous record of 3,450 chaperoned in 2006. We have now chaperoned more than 20,000 kids since the quintet above rode the #96 with us in 1999.

It probably would be more accurate to use the term child bodies for this statistic, incidentally. Every trip participant under age 18 is added to the yearly tally, whether s/he is embarking on a first-ever TransitPeople trek or has joined us on other trips in the past. However, the phrase child bodies smacks much too ghoulishly of for a web site like this one. Hence, the present phrasing, until a better term comes along.

(How many unique, under-age-18 participants have traveled with TransitPeople? You’ll have to consult with a reputable psychic on that one, unless ECHELON has been keeping track. ¿Quién sabe? No one knows.)

  The January/February weekend special event trip ideas list is online, and awaits a subdirectory spot on your computer. Click the magic link and it's yours.

  Just one more note about the Observatory: the next to last TransitPeople news entry for 2007 noted that the new LADOT shuttles there are ‘practically empty.’

We-ell, not anymore. Please do book a Saturday or Sunday trip here, don’t hesitate, but be prepared to stand for the short ride from the Sunset/Vermont subway station. The good word spread quickly.

  Curious about how we spend the dollars? Prefer numbers to words? If so, feel free to mouse over to our financial information page, which now includes stats for the year just past. The stats offer no surprises: admission, insurance and transit expenses chewed up most of the dollars.

  Once again, our longest-standing grant supporter came through for us: thank you, Lark Ellen Lions Foundation, for your generosity in providing grant funding to TransitPeople. The Lions were there for us in our salad days, when we needed a helping hand most, and have supported our travels faithfully since. They join the Lluella Morey Foundation, the Good Works Foundation and the Pergo Foundation in providing grant funding support to TransitPeople in 2007.

  We are about to receive an unusual, one of a kind gift that merits a description in its own right: the proceeds of the annual Getty silent auction. Here's the scoop:

Every December, the Getty hosts a staff-and-significant-others-only Winter Celebration shindig at the high-atop-the-405 Getty Center. Expect good music and fine food, if you’re lucky enough to rate an invite ... and a chance to bid in the silent auction.

Good samaritans contribute items to be bid upon, and participants discreetly write bids on slips of paper. (As opposed to gesturing portentously or hallooing out numbers at a gavel-wielding auctioneer.) Proceeds go to charity, and the recipient charity rotates yearly.

Guess which charity will receive auction proceeds for 2007?

TransitPeople, of course ... which is why it’s a real shame that the Getty didn’t heed our excellent arguments for including the Lansdowne Herakles in the auction. However, the Getty education department did donate several pieces of handblown glass created by instructors at Corning, and these boosted auction proceeds considerably. We are blessed.

Special thanks to Ruth Cuadra of the Getty for suggesting TransitPeople as a 2007 beneficiary.

2007 News & Announcements

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