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Santa Monica Pier Treats Teachers  

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By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

October 31, 2011 -- The Santa Monica Pier is more than just a place to go to have fun, as a group of teachers learned last week at a special event designed just for them.

The pier and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District hosted 30 teachers from 15 different schools in the Los Angeles area Tuesday for the third Pier FAM (familiarization) Event, which showcased the many hands-on educational experiences the pier has to offer.

Teachers stream off the pier's ferris wheel. Photo by Jason Islas.

“We are champions of the pier and advocate its use in bringing learning alive outside the classroom by complementing what is learned with activities at the Santa Monica Pier,” said Rosa Serratore, educational services coordinator for the school district.

Primary and Secondary school teachers gathered at Rusty's Surf Ranch to mingle and enjoy some appetizers. They also had an opportunity to look at the Pier Curriculum – a compendium of pier-related lesson plans for preschoolers through high schoolers that covers academic subjects as divergent as Math, History, Language Arts and Physical Education.

Rebecca Sprigg, curriculum consultant with the Pier Restoration Corporation, told The Lookout that the idea behind the pier curriculum is “for children to develop an appreciation for the pier” and “to teach the children the importance of historic preservation,” which she said is a value integral to the community of Santa Monica.

The idea of developing a pier curriculum started back in 2008 when the Pier Restoration Corporation and the Centennial Committee joined to plan the celebration of the pier's 100th anniversary, Sprigg said.

However, the first FAM event didn't happen until 2010, Sprigg said. Now, pier officials are hoping that they will be able to host one each semester – in the early fall and spring, before teachers have to plan their field trips.

“We wanted to celebrate the uniqueness of the pier,” said Tara Treiber, educational director of Heal the Bay.

After Rusty's Surf Ranch, the teachers headed under the pier to Heal the Bay's Aquarium.

“I want to find out what it would take to bring my 7th grade scholars class here,” said Phyllis, a middle-school science teacher at Culver City Middle School, after she had a chance to pet a starfish at aquarium's touch tanks.

Later, the teachers got a chance to ride on the famous solar-powered ferris wheel, but only after they answered all the questions about it on a hand-out, one of the many sample lessons from the Pier Curriculum.

The Pier Restoration Corporation's historian and author of Santa Monica Pier: A Century On The Last Great Pleasure Pier Jim Harris was on hand later to give teachers a brief history of the pier while they stood by the pier's iconic carousel.

The educational potential of the pier has been well-known to some for many years.

José Lopez, a Spanish language teacher at SAMOHI, said that he has been bringing his advanced classes in the morning to the pier for reflective writing for quite some time, adding that it's a great place to inspire his students to write.

The day ended with another taste of Santa Monica hospitality at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company where teachers had some more time to mingle and munch before going their separate ways.

The Pier Curriculum is an ongoing project. For more information, visit

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