California Class History Tour Funded by Major League Baseball Player

Parker Lefton is a retired history teacher at Maclay High School in California, just outside of Los Angeles. He continues to work as an educator in his role as the volunteer coordinator of the Dedicated Foundation. Gareth Anderson, a recently retired Major League Baseball player who has spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Angels, is a sponsor of The Designed to Dream Foundation. Anderson and his wife Teresa were once students at Maclay and since 2003 have been actively funding and planning special projects at the school.

The Gareth Anderson Foundation funds reading and educational excursions
The Dreamed Foundation is a source of funding for the Maclay Middle School Reading and Educational Travel Initiative. Each year, a group of students take an educational tour of the East Coast to Boston, New York or Philadelphia. Lefton also travels annually with a group of students to historic and geographical landmarks in California. "I feel it is important to expose the children to this school to the outside world. Many of the children 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 interviewed had certain routes that could not be changed. "I didn't necessarily like the tours of other companies," said Lefton, "so I finally said yes to the company that was open to organizing the tour in any way. "Educational travel consultants were ready to personalize the tour to fit his curriculum. Counselors work with teachers to create educational tours that further the teaching goals. Pre-packed tours of popular destinations are also available for school groups.

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

Students travel to Mount Sierra Nevada
Lefton wanted to start the tour with an overview of the country's geography. The school trip begins with a visit to Mamut Mountain, the site of an ancient volcano that erupted about 57,000 years ago. The students then move to nearby Lake Tahoe, another geographical wonder – a large and deep mountain lake that sits approximately 6,625 feet high and is located on the border of Nevada and California. While touring the area, students also visit the Coloma Valley, the place where gold was first discovered. This discovery triggered the 1849 Gold Rush.

Tour of Sacramento and San Francisco Bay
After spending a day in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the school group heads west to Sacramento to visit the California State Railroad Museum, where they learn about building a transcontinental railroad. This is where the first of two travel training exercises begins with the hunt for information. Students work in pairs to find specific information in the museum. Winners receive Target gift cards. During a visit to Sacramento, students also tour the California State Capitol building, where they gain an idea and perspective on government.

The next route is the San Francisco Bay Area where students visit Alcatraz Island Prison by boat, walk along the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point Tour (old Civil War site), sightseeing of the Marine National Historic Park, and take a walking tour of Chinatown. In the evening, the student group dines at a Fisherman's Wharf restaurant.

Santa Cruz and Monterey
The next day, the school group moves south of the San Francisco Bay area and visits Santa Cruz, where they see one of California's red forests and make a stop in Monterey, California's first capital. Here, students reflect on the Mexican period in California history, visit the Monterey Aquarium and see the Big Sur coastline from the view of Point Lobos Nature Reserve.

18th Century Mission Tour

On the way back to Los Angeles, the bus stops at Moro Bay, where a tour of the Natural History Museum offers a visual and educational tour of the coastal area. At their last stop, they go around the La Purisima mission, a beautifully preserved example of a mission as it would have been in 1800. Part two of the information search happens at La Purisima, where students are tasked with finding specific details about the mission's history while they on tour.

Competing for a place on the California tour

Funding restrictions do not allow all Maclay High School students to attend this grant-funded trip. Thus, Lefton and Anderson created an academic competition with winners awarded on the spot in the California tour. The competition helps them strive for better grades and also includes the element of luck. Students receive drawing tickets for each grade A, B and C grade. Fourteen names were extracted from all records and these happy students circled their native state.

This unique journey was created because a history teacher wanted to develop an educational tour that allowed students to engage in some active knowledge of their native state. The California tour is ambitious at all the sites it covers. Students studying history, geography and social studies in California will benefit from a trip designed this way, or even one that is quite similar. The tour can be reduced to three or four days instead of five or six and still offers many training opportunities.

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