News & Announcements

12/17/10: Thanks, S. Mark Taper Foundation

The 'one other foundation donor' mentioned in the last post was none other than the S. Mark Taper Foundation, patron of charities large and small in Southern California.

Their check arrived yesterday. We're grateful that they still believe in us, as we determine what our future role will be in the wake of Metro's free field trip program decision.

We promise to use the money well .. and are likely to use it soon, now that we're paying our own transit tab.

12/12/10: Trip leading info now online

The "detailed information on how we lead trips" promised in the 12/9 news post now lives online, in two documents linked from our teacher-trip leader page:

•  a six page "introduction to transit trips," which surveys the differences between field trips by transit and field trips by school bus. This should be useful to any teacher contemplating a first transit trip, in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Anchorage or most anywhere else.

•  a completely revised, re-written and online-for-the-first-time version of the Teacher-Trip Leader Training Guide. Covered in sometimes tedious detail in this twenty-five page handbook are just about every imaginable aspect of trip leading, from emptying back packs before the trip to dealing with problematic riders to finding a good bathroom at Olvera Street.

The training guide is our manual, folks. Lessons learned from ten years of practical experience are found within.

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In other developments related to the Metro board's free transit field trips decision:

In many ways, TransitPeople is to this decision what a corner hardware store is to the announcement of a new Home Depot across the street. If well-implemented, this Metro program could represent tremendous good news to teachers and children all over the county ... but it also promises to make our little volunteer organization a lot less relevant.

We require teachers to invest significant time to qualify as trip leaders, and to complete a biennial renewal training. Many teachers aren't going to want to put in that kind of time if they can book free public transit field trips without us.

(It's possible, true, that the new Metro program will require so much red tape and jumping-through-of-hoops that teachers will still line up to qualify as teacher-leaders ... but that can't be the Metro board's intention, and let's hope that doesn't happen.)

We're in limbo. If Metro implements a good program, teachers all over L.A. will benefit -- and most probably will choose to work with Metro rather than with us. If Metro requires a lot of red tape and hoop jumping, we may thrive. And if Metro opens the floodgates without qualifying participants or coordinating trips, some routes to popular trip destinations (particularly bus routes) could become almost unnavigable during peak field trip months.

(Please see the comments accompanying this post on la.streetsblog, for a few thoughts on this.)

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With all that said:

•  We will no longer request Metro passes for our trips, and instead will furnish trip leaders with funds for fare payment.

The December "pinks" arrived late; passes for 12/1 had to be sent to trip leaders by FedEx. The December package also omitted passes for two trips later this month. These passes are due to come late, too, and also will have to be sent FedEx.

That's enough! Regular readers of this news page know that we've had problems securing passes since March. Insiders know that we've had problems a lot longer than that. We'll pay cash for the foreseeable future, and wait to see what will be available once the free field trip program is implemented.

•  Earlier this year, the Lark Ellen Lions and one other foundation donor approved cash grants to TransitPeople to be delivered later this month. The news of the Metro free field trip vote broke on on December 9. Both donors were informed of this news within three hours of the decision, and provided with a frank assessment of how it could affect TransitPeople prospects. Both were given the opportunity to withhold grant funding, as they saw fit.

The Lions chose to give to us anyway. (That's Marion Douglas of the Lions above, accepting thank you cards from Ms. Shaw's class during the Lions' annual lunch at the Biltmore.) We haven't heard from the other donor, and will respect whatever decision they reach.

•  No future trainings will be offered for would-be teacher-trip leaders until we know what Metro's free field trip program will look like.

•  Our four dozen+ current teacher-trip leaders can continue to book trips just as they always have, except that they'll receive funds from us to pay transit, rather than passes.

Repeat: no other changes. If you're a teacher-leader with heart set on a Central Library or Aquarium or LACMA trip, well, to the Central Library and Aquarium and LACMA you shall go. That's what our bank account is for.

•  If Metro's free field trip program is badly implemented and some routes to some destinations become nightmarishly crowded, we will consider paying for school buses so existing teacher-trip leaders can take the trips they expect from us. You volunteered time to qualify; you'll be taken care of, if at all possible.

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For now, that's all. And please remember: TransitPeople's role may be marginalized, but tens of thousands of kids all over the county could benefit if Metro implements a good program. These kids matter a lot more than one nonprofit. First things first.

12/9/10: Metro votes yes on field trips

Big, big news on the school field trip front: the Metro board of directors voted yes today on Mayor Villaraigosa's proposal to allow free field trips for schools aboard Metro trains and buses. The mayor's motion is online, and offers a quick summary of the vote.

Please note this paragraph, from the summary:

Prior to implementation, Metro staff will determine guidelines for student eligibility, designate days and hours for the program, determine eligible school-organized activities and identify responsibilities of participating school districts or individual schools. Schools will contact Metro to determine eligibility and make arrangements in advance of travel.

How will this affect TransitPeople? No idea. How will L.A. County teachers book trips with Metro? No idea. Stay tuned.

Our open letter to the Metro board promised that detailed information on how we lead trips will be posted within the month. Please stay tuned for that too. Maybe within a week.

11/23/10: Open letter to Metro Board

There may be big news on the horizon, readers! According to a recent press release, Mayor Villaraigosa has proposed that free field public transit privileges be extended to public and private schools here for field trips. This could represent a tremendous opportunity for Los Angeles children, who have paid the price in all too many ways for the state's ongoing financial woes.

Our humble nonprofit has just a bit of experience in conducting trips of this type, what with ten+ years and 30,000+ children chaperoned since 1999. Our board of directors has agreed on an open letter to the Metro board about this proposal, which we invite you to read and share at your leisure. (Stay tuned for the Kindle version.)

9/24/10: Ciclovía comes to Los Angeles

The world-weary globetrotters among those browsing this News page are undoubtedly familiar with the Ciclovía movement, in which a city's powers-that-are set aside part of the traffic grid as temporary park-and-play acreage for cyclists and pedestrians.

Colombia, home of the world-renowned TransMilenio bus rapid transit system, gets credit for the first Ciclovía, aways back in the tie-died 70s. The movement has grown ever since. Paris hosts a Ciclovía. Mexico City hosts a Ciclovía. Even Kansas City and El Paso host Ciclovías, and now, thanks to the efforts of some good Samaritans here, Los Angeles is a-gonna host a Ciclovía too. (Although it will be known as CicLAvia here, for obvious reasons.)

¿Cuándo?: Sunday, October 10, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ¿Dónde?: East Hollywood to East L.A. The route passes several rail stations, so getting there shouldn't be difficult. If you ride a bike, walk, hop, skip, jump or maybe just crawl, you're welcome.

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MTA staff have requested a meeting on Tuesday, September 28 to discuss future distribution of passes for our trips. This means that passes will be late once again for October. They will be sent by FedEx, if necessary.

9/8/10: Destination news

The kids are back in their chairs at Montebello Unified, and will be next week at single track schools in L.A. Unified. Teachers all over Southern California are poring over lesson plan books, chasing missing teachers' guides and textbook sets, and hauling bureaucratic junk mail by the cubic ton out of office mail boxes.

It's back to school month! And that means it's high time for a quick update on a few destinations we visit often, and one we might visit often in the future. Without further ado:

•  Wednesday evening, October 13, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. If you'd like to query a real marine biologist before booking that big Aquarium trip, that's the date and time you should set aside to attend the Teachers' Open House, ab-so-lute-ly free to educators.

You can tell TransitPeople you wanna go, and we'll handle the reservations for you, or you can call the web site number to RSVP.

(Speaking of the Aquarium: the great performer pictured above has officially retired, according to this news item on the AOP web site. Miller is the third oldest sea lion in a zoological institution anywhere, and Aquarium staff feared that he might get along poorly with fellow male sea lion Parker during the upcoming rut season. Twenty-nine might seem like a pretty generous retirement age to you, even by Wall Street robber baron standards, but an equivalently aged homo sapiens would be reminiscing about the great Smedley Butler and the Bonus Army.)

•  The brontothere, mastodon and other Cenozoic era beasties have a new home at the Natural History Museum: the new Age of Mammals hall, which opened in July in the refurbished 1913 Beaux-Arts building. The NHM web site even offers a new page for grade-specific lesson plans for the American History Hall, Bird Hall, California History Hall, Gems and Minerals Hall and, of course, the Age of Mammals hall. Expect to see us there often.

•  If you'd like to book a Central Library tour, send in your request soon. The library used to offer tours and storytelling sessions on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. LAPL Central is now closed on Mondays, which means they lost a third of their tour slots. The predictable result: an already-crowded calendar for October.

We probably can get you booked, but it's going to be a lot easier to do it now than it will be in June. Early birds will win on this one.

•  The good news: the ever-popular Debs Audubon plans to offer a complete slate of programs this year for grades K-5, and has a wide-open calendar. The not so good news: for now, the programs can be booked only on Tuesdays, which is early dismissal / after school faculty meeting day for most teachers in L.A. Unified. Debs may offer Thursday programs eventually.

•  No one ever booked a trip to the old Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust site near Wilshire and San Vicente, described in a 2009 news post. We could have. It wasn't the biggest museum in Los Angeles, but the exhibits were well worth seeing, and museum staff said they could steer kids around and away from photos they might have found disturbing.

Well, just so you know: LAMOTH is opening a tremendous new museum this October 14 in Pan Pacific park, a short walk from 16 stops on Third and 14 stops on Beverly, a longer walk from 217 stops on Fairfax, and a be-sure-to-wear-good-shoes capital H Hike from the 720 stop on Wilshire. A nearby train stop would be easier, but anything in this area is still much more accessible for most of our clients than the Museum of Tolerance.

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And finally: this news post wouldn't be complete without a special tip of the transit pass to the thirty-two trip leaders, teacher-leaders and teacher-leaders-to-be who came out to the mid-Wilshire this summer for TransitPeople trainings. We require an every-two year renewal for trip leaders and teacher-leaders, and an introductory training for future leaders before they book an evaluation field trip.

The summer months are often break time or second job time for many teachers, and it says a lot that so many would come out even then -- with no compensation or salary points -- so they could be ready to lead their kids on field trips in the 2010-11 school year.

Pictured above: the dedicated teachers who attended the training on July 21.

6/28/10: Step on a Crack at Stella Adler

So what was Step on a Crack like?

•  More grown-up than children's fare we've seen at the Stella Adler in years past. Step on a Crack tells the story of grade schooler Ellie Murphy, who peoples a make-believe world with fantasy characters to help her cope with her father's remarriage and life with a stepmother. Fully half of the play's six characters are figments of Ellie's imagination, who keep Ellie company in her perpetually messy bedroom.

Playwright Susan Zeder's thoughts on writing plays for young audiences can be found in this online .pdf. So ambitious a story line might bellyflop in the hands of less talented performers, but this was the Stella Adler, after all. As noted on May 6, we'd be in good hands if the actors stood on stage and recited times tables.

•  As wildly popular as everything else we've seen here. Teachers eagerly booked all of the seats for June 10, June 15 and June 17 within two days of receiving the announcement, and would have packed the house on June 8, too, if that hadn't been an early dismissal day for much of L.A. Unified.

•  Please click here or on the photo above for more shots from June 17. And thank you, thank you, Rochelle, Jack, all star cast members Dana Salah, Carlos Torres, Sena Clark, Vanessa Herrera, Louis Kalombo, Rose Swiatecka, ace director Sharon Jakubecy and everyone else at this wonderful theater for putting on this show and letting us come.

5/28/10: CTAA trade fair and LFLA dinner

A couple of quick news items to start the long weekend:

•  Community Transportation Expo. If those three words en juntos are brand new to you, gentle reader, it's already too late: the Expo arrived this last Sunday and left today, after gracing the Long Beach Convention Center with five days of transit-related training sessions and workshops. The Expo is merely one of the biggest annual public transit shindigs to be found anywhere, and this was the first time it made it out to the Left Coast.

Our Aquarium trips generally take us right by the Convention Center on our way to and from the Blue Line, so we gratefully accepted Rail Magazine editor Scott Bogren's invitation to put in an appearance after a day with the salt water set. We are, collectively, a bit young to lead symposia on regionalism and other lofty matters discussed at CTE, but we could take a nice stroll through the Wednesday Trade Fair grand opening to see what we could see.

In the shot above: a six year old takes a turn at the helm of a Sunliner Coach (and, fortunately, didn't reach for the key while behind the wheel). Thanks to Terry Floyd of AngelTrax for letting us clamber aboard.

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•  Best-selling author Stephen King probably didn't travel there aboard the 16 or 28 so far as we know, but he was nice enough to speak at the fifteenth annual Los Angeles Library awards dinner. Click here for one blogger's first hand account of the big event. As you'll see, Mr. King owes much of his success to the pleasant whiling away of boyhood hours in his local library.

As for the photo above, with city librarian Martín Gómez: the LAPL home page slideshow includes a vintage TransitPeople field trip shot, and it was nothing less than an honor to provide a half dozen photos to be shown on a projector during this event. (If you'd like to learn more about supporting the library, please click here.)

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And finally, for the many of you with trips on the calendar for the month ahead: you're ready to travel. The June passes are in and are on their way.

5/6/10: Lost Egypt, and Step on a Crack

Launching one of the most important Los Angeles educational destinations of the decade just wasn't enough for the staff at the Science Center. This April they also opened a new traveling exhibit gallery, and all you have to do to see it is waltz in through the second floor World of Life gallery.

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science is the name. The Science Center offers an introductory web page, and the exhibit has an URL of its own, too.

Lost Egypt includes mummies. What else needs to be said? Mention mummies to the kids and they'll never let you alone until you sign up.

A word to the wise: expect serious crowds, if visiting before the end of June. Field trip season is in full swing.

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The CST tests are done (or will be), the end of the school year looms nigh, and you want your students to see a real, live, grown-up-actors-on-stage-under-spotlights play. Can it be done?

Yes, thanks to the generosity of our friends at the Stella Adler Acting Academy. Suzan Zeder's Step on a Crack opens at their Hollywood-Highland theater on May 18, and will offer Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 a.m. performances through June 17. A brief bio of the playwright is here, and a news item on a production by an unrelated-to-Stella-Adler-and-in-a-whole-different-part-of-the-country acting ensemble is here.

We have never seen a less than excellent play at the Stella Adler, and would offer unqualified thumbs up if their thespians just stood on stage and recited the times tables. A sure bet. Recommended and then some.

If you'd like to book Step on a Crack independently of TransitPeople, incidentally, just pick up the phone: (323) 465-4446 gets the theater's front desk.

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Good news, teachers: MTA furnished May passes rapidamente, with plenty of time to spare before our start of the month trips, and we can humbly hope for more of the same in the months ahead. Everything goes more smoothly when we don't have to fuss to get the 'pinks.' Grateful thanks, One Gateway, for accommodating our requests.

4/3/10: More about Ecosystems

With two visits safely in the past tense, it's time to provide a bit more information for teachers either contemplating an Ecosystems trip, or wondering what they're in for on the Ecosystems date already booked.

•  Think size. Ecosystems isn't a new gallery, like World of Life or Creative World. It's not even two new galleries. It's more like a new museum.

One hundred sixty five million bucks, ten years to build it and 45,000 square feet of floor space. Visitors enter through a large, can't-miss-it corridor next to the familiar second floor World of Life ... but once inside Ecosystems, are unlikely to emerge anytime soon.

The Science Center describes it as a ninety to one hundred twenty minute experience for most visitors. This is if you sprint. Our April 2 group spent two and a half hours in the galleries, and could have stayed much longer.

Count on:

⋅  Visiting only Ecosystems, unless you're up for a late afternoon return to school.


⋅  Leaving Ecosystems with many of the galleries left unvisited.

•  Ecosystems is divided into galleries, each devoted to a separate ecosystem. See the quizzical kids in the shot above? The Extreme Zone and Kelp Forest are big; the Rot Room and Global Zone, much smaller; the Discovery Room, exclusively for the seven-years-old-and-younger set. There's also a capacious L.A. Zone, which you'll visit on the way out.

•  Some Aquarium overlap. Divers talk to visitors and field questions during regular shows in the Kelp Forest, and Ecosystems also includes a capacious outdoor area in which children can touch sea stars and other aquatic animals in a touch tank.

Some overlap, but this isn't an aquarium. No shark lagoon, no ray touch pool, no sea lions, no octopus, no puffins, no otters, no much more. Still: some overlap.

To editorialize just a bit: this is a remarkable gift for kids all over L.A., and for South Los Angeles children especially. Consider the location. The Huntington Conservatory is certainly the equal of anything in Ecosystems, but how are classes from South L.A. schools going to get up to San Marino without a school bus? Our groups have done it and will do it again, but it's not an easy trip.

But school groups (that haven't heard of us, of course) regularly walk to the Exposition Park museums from as far south as Slauson, and maybe from farther south than that. Scads of bus lines serve the park: the 81, 200, 102, Southeast DASH, 204, 550, 754, Silver Line. If you're willing to walk a few blocks, add in the 40, 42, 45, King-East DASH, and the lines that stop at the 37th Street Transitway station. And Exposition Park soon will host a light rail station of its own, once the first phase of the Expo Line goes live in 2011 or so.

The reason the Science Center is jammed with classes in June is that it's affordable: $25 group reservation fee for everything under the California Science Center umbrella except the extras like the motion simulator or IMAX. Now there's what amounts to a brand new, state of the art, expertly put-together museum that can be visited regularly by thousands and thousands of lucky kids from some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Good news and then some.

3/27/10: Angels' Flight Returns

The rebuild took nine years -- roughly thirty-five times longer than the eighty-four days needed to rebuild a chunk of the Santa Monica freeway after the Northridge quake -- but the world's shortest railway is again open for business on Hill Street.

In 1901, the local carriage trade paid a penny to ride the Angels' Flight funicular up to the mansions that then crowned Bunker Hill. Today skyscrapers blanket the hill, and a one way trip costs a quarter, but the wooden cars Olivet and Sinai still lumber up the tracks as they did a century ago.

For teachers, downtown Los Angeles once again offers three significant historical attractions in the two blocks between Third and Broadway and Fourth and Hill: the Bradbury building, Grand Central Market and Angels' Flight. (The Million Dollar Theater could qualify as a fourth, but special arrangements have to be made to enter.) Add in a guided tour at the Wells Fargo History Museum, and you've got an all star California history field trip, in the transit friendliest part of town.

For us, unqualified good news. (Despite the brooding expression of the child in the foreground of the shot below. Honest, he enjoyed himself! He was just about to flash the familiar-to-kids V for victory sign.)

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On to some bad news: MTA has decided to institute a new policy for providing passes to TransitPeople. All pass requests for trips from May, 2010 on will need to be submitted to their office within two weeks of the first of the month. This means that our deadline for submitting the May trip list is April 17.

We have and will continue to cover transit costs for short notice trips conducted without passes ... but traveling without “the pinks” is a lot tougher, as veteran volunteers know. MTA bus drivers no longer sell good-for-the-whole-day $5 passes. A trip leader conducting a four bus trip without the pinks -- say, a 720 to 81 ride to the Science Center -- must:

  • make sure that s/he has plenty of small bills on the day of the trip
  • multiply the total head count by the $1.25 per person fare
  • ready the fare for the fare box -- for instance, $28.75, for a group of twenty-three
  • hold the kids at bay and smile appeasingly at other passengers while feeding the bills into the fare box (which inevitably will reject some bills, like self-respecting fare box machines everywhere)
  • repeat the whole process three more times for the remaining buses

Or not book the field trip in the first place, which (unfortunately) will be the likely choice of some teacher-leaders. And many other arrangements are possible, which also would avoid the waste of issuing non-refundable $5 per person passes for the occasional trip that cancels because of rain.

Happily, there is one bright side: this new policy could offer a 'silver lining,' if it eliminates eleventh hour scrambling to FedEx passes two days before scheduled trips. (Or, occasionally, traveling to schools to hand deliver passes the day before a trip. Our problems in March were unusually serious, but didn't occur in a vacuum.) For this reason, we have requested that MTA furnish the passes with sufficient lead time to allow them to be distributed to trip leaders five weekdays before the start of a month.

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Well, that was speedy: five teachers have booked the Science Center's new Ecosystems exhibit for April, and four more have signed up in May and June. We'll undoubtedly have more sign-ups in the weeks ahead.

Ecosystems already has garnered one rave review from Noelle Shaw, the veteran teacher who nabbed the March preview mentioned in the March 11 post. Look for us there often.

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There's still one more month to visit another all-star offering at the Science Center, like the kids shown above: America I Am. This traveling exhibit covers five hundred years of African-American history, from the seventeenth century Doors of No Return that held slaves captive in Ghana, to the typewriter Alex Haley used to write Roots.

Where: Weingart Gallery and maybe two classrooms' worth of additional floor space on the third floor. When: until May 2. How much?: for school groups, ab-so-lute-ly FREE, as long as you book as a school group in advance.

Anything else? Some exhibits are too strong for the primary grades, but you should be safe from grades 4 up. (Or maybe from grade 3 up; you know your students best.)

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Most TransitPeople veterans will recognize the scene in the shot below: the ever-popular Pavilion of Wings, which returns to the Natural History Museum on April 11. This news page offered a Pavilions related post last year, and the fundamentals haven't changed since then.

A half hour time slot at Pavilions is reserved, ticketed and paid for separately, and a walk among the mariposas still makes an excellent addition to a day at the NHM.

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And finally: two classes have booked the Music Center's wonderful Very Special Arts Festival, and the Center certainly can accommodate more. Transit access is excellent, thanks to the Civic Center subway station two blocks east.

3/11/10: Four News Items

First, and most importantly, for trip leaders and teachers concerned about the status of their March trips: the "pinks" -- aka, MTA transit passes -- are in, and have been sent to all trip leaders and teacher-trip leaders on the roster for March.

Packages for Friday and Saturday trips were sent by express mail. No canceled trips, no disappointed children. If you’re on the list and don’t get them shortly, e-mail or call.

On to cheerier News & Announcements items:

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•  A capital M, boldface Major new educational destination is coming to Exposition Park. The last time these pixels really kicked up a fuss about a venue was a couple of years back, when the Observatory reopened. What’s coming up now is at least as big, simply because it’s in transit-centric Exposition Park.

Ecosystems. See the kids hoofing it across “State Drive” from the Science Center in the shot above? The new Ecosystems exhibit is in a tall, cylindrical building of its very own immediately to the right -- in the direction of the green arrow in the top right hand corner of this photo.

Our Exposition Park groups have watched -- and occasionally have stepped out of the way of -- construction on this building for the past several years, without more than a whimsical expectation that it probably would be a nice place to visit once a fait accompli.

Well, it’s just about a fait accompli now. We already have one extra-lucky group scheduled for a special preview visit in late March, a few days after EcoSystems opens to the general public on March 25. For everyone else, here are the essential details:

–  EcoSystems opens to school groups on April 6. The first few days are likely to be pretty busy, but they’ve still got plenty of free spots in mid-April and beyond. (An educated guess as to why: the word hasn’t spread. Yet.)

–  School group cost (for those booking separately from TransitPeople, as we cover this cost for the groups that travel with us): $25.

That’s it. No hidden charges, no extra fees, and yes, those twenty-five dollars cover EcoSystems, the Science Center and the Aerospace Museum. You can visit all three on the same day, although you should make it clear that you want to visit all three, if you do.

Web site: here. No TransitPerson has yet ventured inside EcoSystems, and it is at least theoretically possible that it could be a let down, but that is very, very unlikely. Odds are high that this will be a fantastic, four star life sciences destination.

Book it. If you’re a teacher-leader and willing to martyr yourself for more than one class at your school site, book often. You gotta come.

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Courtesy of the gentlemanly Damien Newton of L.A. Streetsblog, we’ve got a chance to nab a free Sunday guided tour of an entirely separate destination from the one described immediately above, although they do share the first two syllables: EcoHome.

The web site describes EcoHome as a living research center, which demonstrates environmentally responsible living practices in an urban setting. The 1911 bungalow has been fitted with solar hot water heating, photovoltaic panels, ultra low flow water systems, and other energy and water conservation measures. More than 15,000 guests have visited since 1988.

¿Donde está? 4344 Russell Avenue in East Hollywood, a stiff hike from the Vermont/Sunset subway station, a slightly shorter walk from the 180/181 line, and (for you transit wags) almost next door to a the 175 line, which offers no weekend service. If interested in this trip, please write!

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They supported us in 2008, and we are honored times ten that they’re willing to do so again: thank you, good people at Van Nuys Charities, for your generosity in supporting our field trip program again in 2010. Areas of interest for this Southern California charity include medical clinics, shelter programs, health education programs and other projects benefiting the Los Angeles area.

On behalf of a lot of fortunate teachers and small children: we are grateful. The money will be spent well.

3/9/10: Still no March passes

Trip leaders and teachers, we are sorry: we still don't have the passes for our remaining March trips, and can't offer a definite time of arrival.

According to MTA staff in Transit Education, only one employee in the headquarters building, "Martin," is authorized to issue the passes. They would prefer that Martin not be contacted directly, and indicate that he has not yet furnished passes to them.

Teachers with upcoming trips for the end of this week and weekend, you'll be e-mailed individually, once more. Again: we're sorry.

3/2/10: MTA passes are late for March

Although this news page doesn't ordinarily delve into the nuts and bolts of month-to-month trip planning, it is a likely place for worried teachers to check in case of problems. We do have a problem this month, so, without further ado:

The MTA passes -- generally referred to as "the pinks" by those who travel with them -- are late for March, for reasons unknown. If you were expecting them this week, you can stop checking the school mail box. They won't be there.

All trips will proceed as planned. We'll cover transit costs for the trip this Friday, and, if necessary, also for the big LACMA tour coming up next week, and for subsequent trips.

If you have a March trip, please check your e-mail for more information.

1/7/10: Happy New Year !

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Joyce Wang, at far left in the shot below, and her colleague Elena Salazar, in the photo at right. Both teach at Ninth Street Elementary in downtown's Central City East neighborhood. In 2009, both also qualified as teacher-trip leaders: teachers who receive gear and funds to lead TransitPeople outings on their own.

Last December, Ms. Wang decided to try something a bit different: a series of every-Friday-after-school trips to the Central Library, to allow her students to check out books and return books checked out the Friday before. She traveled as the solo trip leader on December 4 and December 11. Ms. Salazar joined her on December 18. Both plan to return in the months ahead.

This warrants a public huzzah or two. Some school libraries are quite good, but none expects to be compared seriously to the childrens' lit department of LAPL Central, merely the largest public library in the second biggest city in the country.

Consider the vital stats: a quarter of a million titles for little people, the largest collection of fairytales west of the Mississippi ... and, as if all that weren't enough, a twenty-three station computer lab just for visitors aged eleven and under. If your aim is to cultivate literacy in children, you'd be hard pressed to pick a better place to do it.

The Central Library is a long trek for many schools, but not for Ninth Street: the bus ride for Ms. Wang and Ms. Salazar was all of ten minutes long each way aboard the 26/51/52 line. Several teacher-leaders at San Pedro Elementary also have short, one transit bus rides to LAPL Central, and have booked repeat trips to check out and return books, as has teacher-leader David Navar of Winter Gardens in Montebello Unified, to the East Los Angeles library.

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In late 2004, thanks to a referral from Public Counsel, attorney David Schack of K&L | Gates generously provided pro bono help in establishing our teacher-leader program. Amy Lee of Miramonte was the first to qualify, in 2005: that's her, in the shot, below with a brace of students next to the aerospace museum.

The rest, as they say, is history. The program got off to a bit of a slow start, but began to grow more rapidly in 2007. Today nearly four dozen teachers at fourteen schools have completed qualification. Some lead trips occasionally; others, much more frequently. (While on vacation, Maria Miranda of Miramonte once led five trips in a single month, to allow multiple classes from her school to take end-of-year excursions.)

As 2010 gets underway, it's obvious that this program is going to remain an important part of what we do in the future. Last year, teacher-leader led trips accounted for roughly sixty-three percent of the total of 4,150 children chaperoned. If you've wondered why few newer evaluations have appeared on the testimonials page, well, that's why. It would look a bit odd to ask a teacher-leader to grade her or his own skills as a chaperon.

California is in much poorer financial health in 2010 than when our program began. Many or most schools have eliminated all field trip funding. Children are coming of age with no school visits to the Aquarium, no visits to the Central Library, no visit to the Natural History Museum.

If we want to make our trips available safely to as many children as possible, the teacher-leader program looks like a good way of doing it.

In the months ahead, you may see some other changes geared to maximizing the number of children we can serve. Stay tuned.

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And finally, no start of the year news posting would be complete without a shout-out to the people who supported us in 2009:

  the David Bohnett Foundation, through their Fund for Los Angeles program.

  the Lark Ellen Lions -- for the eleventh year in a row.

  and, of course, everyone who contributed to our April Transit Race!

2009 News & Announcements

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