The class trip to California history is funded by Major League Baseball

Parker Lefton is a retired history teacher for Maclay High School in Pacoina, California, just outside Los Angeles. She continues to work as an educator in the role of volunteer coordinator of the Decisive Dream Foundation. Garret Anderson, a recently retired baseball player in the league who has spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Angels, is funding the Decisive Dream Foundation. Anderson and his wife Teresa were once students at Maclay, and have been actively funding and planning special projects at the school since 2003.

The Garret Anderson Foundation funds reading and educational outreach initiatives
Foundation Determined to Dream Source for Funding for the Maclay Middle School Reading Initiative and Educational Travel. Each year, a group of students takes an educational tour of the East Coast to Boston, New York or Philadelphia. Lefton also annually goes with a group of students to historic and geographical points of interest in California. "I feel it's important to expose the kids at this school to the outside world. Many of the kids who go to Maclay have not had the opportunity to go outside L.A.," Lefton commented.

Hunting for an educational travel company that offers flexibility
When he first started hunting for an educational travel company, Lefton said he was disappointed to find that many of the companies he spoke to had certain routes they could not change. "I didn't necessarily like tours presented by other companies," Lefton observed, "so I finally said 'yes' to a company that was open to organizing a tour in any way possible. Educational travel advisors were willing to tailor the tour to suit his resume Counselors work with teachers to create educational tours that are parallel to the goals of the course. Pre-packaged tours of popular destinations are also available to school groups.

A student tour of California is being created
Lefton helped create a six-day California tour. The journey begins at Maclay High School near Los Angeles, continues to the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe, stops in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento, and continues down the California coast through Monterey and Santa Cruz, then back to Los Angeles.

Students travel to the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Lefton wanted to embark on a tour of the country's geography. The school trip begins with a visit to Mammoth Mountain, the site of an ancient volcano that erupted some 57,000 years ago. The students then proceed to nearby Lake Tahoe, another geographical marvel – a large and deep mountain lake that lies at an altitude of approximately 1225 meters and is located at the border of Nevada and California. While touring the area, students also visit Coloma Valley, the place where gold was first discovered. This discovery was initiated in 1849 by the Gold Rush.

Tour of Sacramento and San Francisco Bay
After staying in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a school group heads west to Sacramento to visit the California State Railroad Museum, where they learned about building a transcontinental railroad. Here, the first of two educational excursions on a trip begins with a hunt for information. Students work in pairs to find specific information in the Museum. Winners receive Target gift cards. During their visit to Sacramento, students also visit the California State Capitol building to gain insight and perspective on state government.

Next up is the San Francisco Bay Area, where students visit the Alcatraz Island Jail, walk the Golden Gate Bridge, tour Fort Point (Civil War-era site), see the Maritime National Historic Park, and take a stroll from Chinatown in the evening. at a restaurant on the fishing pier.

Santa Cruz and Monterey
The next day, a school group heads south from the San Francisco Bay area and visits Santa Cruz, where they see one of California's redwood forests and stop in Monterey, California's first capital. Here, students tour the Mexican period in California history, visit the Monterey Aquarium and see the Big Sur coastline from the vantage point of Point Lobos State Reserve.

18th Century Student Tour

On the way back to Los Angeles, the bus stops in Morro Bay, where a tour of the Natural Museum offers a visual and educational overview of the coastal area. In their last place they visit the La Purisima Mission, a wonderfully preserved example of a mission as it would have been in 1800. The second part of the information hunt happens at La Purisima, where students are tasked with finding specific details about the mission's history while on tour.

Bidding for a spot on the California Tour

Funding restrictions do not allow all Maclay High School students to attend this grant-funded trip. So Lefton and the Andersons created an academic competition with the winners being awarded a place on the California tour. Competition helps them strive for the best possible grades and includes an element of luck. Students receive drawing tickets for each of the acceptable grades in grades A, B and C. "The more good grades they get the first semester of school, the more tickets they have to enter in the drawing," Lefton says. Fourteen names were drawn from all the entries, and these lucky students tour their home country.

This unique journey came as a history teacher wanted to develop an educational tour that gave students the opportunity to engage in active learning about their home country. Touring California is ambitious in all the places it covers. Students studying California history, geography and social studies will benefit from a trip designed like this, or even one that is quite similar. The tour could be reduced to three or four days instead of five or six and still offers many learning opportunities.

For more information on scheduling a student trip to California, visit or email