Monday, June 04, 2007


Dana Middle School students join for the first time in years. Some have never seen a sea lion in the wild.
Capt. Mike McLauglin, and his first mate, Elaine (above)

Other students had never been on a vessel before and are out on the ocean for the first time in their lives.

Dana students (above) enjoy the experience. The consistent thread in their comments is that they can't wait to go again.


TopSail is Tops for Kids – Poor, Rich or in the Middle
It’s the best Team Teacher that every school in the Los Angeles Harbor Area Should Join – including San Pedro High School

“I felt free like a bird when it flies,”-- Jazmine Galindo, a sixth grader, about her adventure aboard the tall ship Exy Johnson

By Diana L. Chapman

I listened to the kids grilling Capt. Mike McLaughlin as he steered the Exy Johnson toward open seas with a bunch of Dana Middle School students aboard.

The students--mind you, between the ages of 12 to 14--wanted to know: What kind of job in the harbor can they get that pays well? How did Mike become a captain? Which jobs are not only lucrative but prestigious? What are the best jobs to take care of their families? Do they have to go to college? What was that yellow boat over there – a taxi? Why is that black vessel have people getting ready to board that freighter?
My thought: When was the last time you were in a school where students sharply question their teacher with pointed interest?

The captain answered patiently, explaining they could spend years gaining the experience to become a captain, as he did, or they could take a shortcut and go to school at a maritime academy.
Ironically, these students, who live in and around Los Angeles Harbor, the second largest port in existence, hugged by the giant Pacific Ocean, had never seen marine mammals in the wild before. That was just some of the experiences unfolding before my eyes aboard the Exy -- and one that impressed upon me more than how our children in San Pedro and throughout the harbor area should be studying and exploring the endless number of career possibilities for them in their own backyard.
The students gathered around Exy's rail excitedlby spotting sea lions roll and glide around the ship, waiting for cannery employees to throw out handfuls of fish. Later they were treated to seeing a school of dolphin!

This is exactly what the founder of TopSail, Capt. Jim Gladson, had in mind when he created the program– an adventure aboard sailing vessels that would teach students alternative ways to learn ranging from geography, science, math, teamwork, resourcefulness to one overarching lesson – how to sail.

That’s how we came aboard for two seperate days with students who are considered potential candidates and may join the school’s after school sailing club once it takes form this fall at Dana. But it's sad that had it not been for Rachel Fischer Gladson, Gladson’s daughter-in-law, these junior high students would never boarded for a single lesson.

Because she knew of my advocacy for children, she called to ask if I could help connect Dana with the program. Thousands of dollars provided through LA Bridges has been wasted by our local schools. Essentially, the story is this: Both Dodson and Dana middle schools could use Top Sail virtually for free with grants through LA Bridges, a prevention-based program for Los Angeles middle schools.

I cringed when I learned this and so did Dana's principal, Terry Ball. While both schools had dabbled some time or another to take advantage of this program, it also needs the right people in the right place at the right time -- meaning a top administrator who believes in it and teachers who want to run the program.

In our case, we were blessed that two teachers volunteered -- English teacher Michelle DeBilzan and science teacher Greg Bartleson. For the first time in years, Dana set sail last week on two different journeys aboard the 90-foot brigantine where kids learned everything from “belaying” or winding lines to how deep the water is just beyond the Angel's Gate Lighthouse.

I loved listening to the kids grill the captain – and believe me, they did -- as well as climb out on the pulpit, head up the mast, raise and later fold the sails and become a big part of the detail running the Exy, one of the twin ships used in TopSail.

So many students begged to come back that the teachers realized how difficult it would be to select students who will be able to join. Each junior high school in Los Angeles that falls under the LA Bridges program – which means most of them – qualifies for this adventure, which includes five different day sails and one final five-day adventure to Catalina Island.

When we returned after a day that began with morning under a misty pearl -gray sky but was transformed into a bright, sunny afternoon, I asked the students to write about their adventures becoming part of the crew and learning a multitude of tasks, including how to use the “head”--the bathroom--and learn lingo they’d never heard before.

“The experience on the ocean is a whole different way to listen and learn,” wrote 13-year-old Bradley Washington. “Smelling the ocean and what smells came out were wet and damp. I would love to go back and relive the experience.”

Wrote 7th grader Bradley Fernandez: “This trip left me speechless. I liked the climbing the best because I got to use my courage and I let go of my fear. This was the best trip of my whole life!”

The teaching experience started when founder Gladson discovered taking his students at an alternative school in Eagle Rock aboard a vessel taught them much more than they could learn in a classroom. They learned how to steer, chart, read maps, understand ocean tides and currents; it was an educational maverick that worked.

He began TopSail under the Los Angeles Maritime Institute at Ports of Call and has four ships in the program, including Exy’s twin, Irving Johnson and the 70-foot Swift of Ipswich.

I can go on and on, but nothing can tell you more than going out on the adventure yourself as a volunteer and watching the kids learn in ways none of us could have imagined. Students coiled lines, hoisted sails, quizzed the captain on how deep it was right outside the harbor (not quite enough to swallow the boat, which is 87 feet high and we were at a depth of 82 feet, the captain explained) and most of all watching the kids become a team.

No one can tell you better than the kids themselves.

“Today, we went sailing and it was crazy. I learned about how you go through winds,” wrote Richard Q., a 13-year-old sixth grader. I really, really, really, 5X really, want to go on a five-day trip. Please pick me. Please pick me. Please pick me. I will behave and learn stuff. New stuff.”

That you will Richard Q. That you will.


Visit June celebrations to honor the Farewell's

Diana L. Chapman

Extending peace offerings to the community – and a thank you to many residents for rallying to their support –Eastview Little League officials launched a series of community events to say goodbye to its historic ball fields that have operated in San Pedro for more than four decades.
As a good bye and thank you, the league – which will be moved temporarily to Knoll Hill while a permanent spot becomes established – will host several events in June for residents including a movie “under the stars.” Each will be free.
“It is just our way to say thank you to San Pedro, and thank you for every family that has been involved with Eastview in the past 45 years.” said Ron Galosic, an East View board member. “We would love for everyone to attend, because it is going to be a whole lot of fun!”
This Saturday (June 9th), Sand Lot III – Heading Home – will be aired under the stars at the ballfields which hosted thousands of games for the little league since 1964.
Beginning at 8 p.m., the movie will air on a 14 X 25 screen. Popcorn will be free. Those attending will need to bring their own chairs and some funds for other refreshments that will be available for a short time at the league’s Snack Bar.
Located at the corner of North Gaffey and Westmont Avenue at the former DiCarlo Bakery site, the league was told they would be evicted by the end of July to make way for an incoming Target store to the area. While league officials fought hard to remain at the site, it became clear that neither Target officials or Councilwoman Janice Hahn would support that effort.
While many other sites were explored as temporary possibilities, including 22 Street’s vacant lot, Hahn’s office settled on Knoll Hill and told East View there would be no other negotiations, East view officials said.
Instead, the league will be moved to Knoll Hill for next baseball season, which will force the Peninsula Dog Park, Inc. to move down the hill to a flatter location at the bottom on Harbor Boulevard. Los Angeles Port executives have promised to make both the fields and the dog park beatific locations -- and pay some funds for each, including the grading.
League officials will hold a “closing day ceremony” to “the end of an era.” Visitors should plan to bring their own barbeques, tarps, tables and chairs.
Double “AA” Division finals will also be held at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 15, and two finals will be played out on Friday, June 16. The Single “A” Division final will be held at 5:30 and the major division finals at 8:30.
Goodbye to Eastview’s old site and good luck to finding a future and permanent location.
Seventh Street Elementary Mural to be Unveiled this Friday...

7th Street Elementary School Unveils A Masterpiece of Literary Art Friday:
It's a Must-See-Creation-of-an-Only Kind; The public is invited to Attend

Where the Seuss of Things Can Be Found in a Wall
By Diana L. Chapman

Using scores of students and dozens of volunteers to painstakingly piece together a snaking 100 feet long mosaic wall, a masterpiece – at least in my book especially because its all about children’s books – will be officially unveiled Friday – ending a project that nearly two years long in the making.
With 12 children’s books depicted in the mosaic mural – pieces done through a combination of children’s work and parent volunteers – stories like Dr. Seuss' Cat and the Hat, Charlotte’s Web and Harry Potter seem to come to life along the curving wall doused in a myriad of colors, from whites to rosy pinks and blues.
The ceremony will be held Friday at 1:15 and is open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. And all the photographs in the world can’t speak for seeing this artistic work: it’s a-must- see-in-person creation.
Megan McElroy, who spent most of her time the past two years working on the wall for generations of school children to come, said the school is happy to complete the giant venture that was done through a $10,000 Neighborhood grant from the city of Los Angeles. Another grant helped pay for beautifully wispy landscape – that accents the beds of the mosaic wall – which includes plants such as Australian willows and the flowering plants alstromeria, salvia, penstemmon and mustard colored yarrow.
Landscape architect Rick Dykzeul, designed the garden and in particular picked that vegetation to attract butterflies and hummingbirds and “we have many,” Megan said.
Artist Melinda Moore created the wall, but the project could not have been completed without parents like Megan and the hundreds of students who participated as well.
“I love creating ceramic pieces with the kids,” Megan said. “It is a
magical process for them because you are transforming
such a raw substance into a beautiful object. But my
favorite part of doing a mural of any kind at a school
is that the kids live with the creative process every
day. They understand that art can be done by anyone,
and they take such pride in our school's accomplishment.”
What makes me so happy, however, is when such projects are completed, it tends to bring the community back to the campus and spark a dying interest in our schools. The beautification is just one piece of this puzzle as it takes over the typical drab ugly colors that douse the creative spirit at most schools.
A mosaic mural like this not only makes the kids want to come to school – it makes the teachers want to come. They frequently sit and have their lunches next to the mosaic mural. And for the kids, every day it gives them something to talk about since the mural is positioned strategically right across from the library – like reading.

For more information, call the school at: (310) 832-1538. The campus is located at 1570 W. 7th Street, San Pedro.