Exploring Balboa Park Aug. 7

By Johnny McDonald

Kids in space

Youngsters attending Aerosummer classes at the Air & Space Museum are acquiring many facets of flight through fun, fantasy and fundamentals; and even mention of a dwarf planet named Pluto.

Johnny McDonald

Johnny McDonald

“With our first and second graders, one of the children came with a lunch bag on which his mom had drawn Pluto,” said Shalene Baxter, a member of the education specialty team. “He showed it to the class and it started a full conversation about the space probe photos. I was a little surprised how into it this group was.”

The five-week summer camp series ends Aug. 26 – 30 with Plane Fun. The classes serve children of all ages, up to the 12th grade.

“We take the kids on a tour of the museum,” Baxter said. “[At first] if you were to ask a first or second grader if they were interested in the history of flight they wouldn’t know what you are talking about. But in walking through the museum they become interested in seeing what the early airplanes looked like.”

The Museum offers a variety of half-day, week-long programs. These classes teach air and space history and science through hands-on activities such as designing and building model airplanes, launching model rockets and flying simulators.

Registration began in March and classes were sold out before July.

“It’s our step in teaching throughout the community to help put the U.S. back into first place for engineering and flight technology fields,” Baxter said. “That’s part of what we do here.”

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China Tour a success

“The San Diego Youth Symphony’s China Tour has been a resounding success beyond anything we imagined,” said Dalouge Smith, president and CEO of the SDYS.

“Our musicians delivered the gift of their music and talents to over 5,000 people,” Smith said. “We thought they’d reached their pinnacle during the final Yantai concert when our own [Dr.] Sidney Yin performed with the orchestra and Music Director Jeff Edmons invited the audience to sing as they played the famous Chinese song ‘Da Hai’ for an encore.”

He said the musicians recognized early on that they were encountering China more deeply and intimately than any other youth orchestra ever could because of our sister city relationship with Yantai.

Yin, the SDYS artistic administrator, was asked if there was something special about performing Gershwin, an iconic American piece, to a Chinese audience.

“Yes, Gershwin was interesting because it is an iconic piece for a youth symphony,” he replied. “It feels very fitting because we are doing a cultural exchange. Also, as a person of Chinese descent, this piece brought together these two cultures for me personally.”

“On our last day in Beijing, we visited students at Beijing Music Conservatory High School,” said Owen Cruise, an orchestra member. “Some of my favorite experiences with the students was experiencing the novelty of the traditional Chinese instruments and their amazing sounds. And their four hours of practice.” 

Elsewhere in the Park — We asked the marketing department if there was anyone at the Museum of Man who might discuss the reasons there are so many wars. I was informed there was no one there who was handling that topic. Probably the best reply. Closest to this is a limited engagement exhibit showing various ways to inflict pain. Instruments of Torture features implements cruelly engineered to inflict unbelievable pain and suffering. But these artifacts also have a deeper significance in helping us understand who we are as human beings. These displays are in partnerships with the International Legal Studies Program at California Western School of Law, the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, and Survivors of Torture … The Annenberg Foundation is helping San Diego Zoo Global work toward its goal of ending extinction and supporting the distribution of the San Diego Zoo Kids Network to children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. A recent grant of $200,000 from the Los Angeles-based organization will be divided between two projects: one that assists researchers in finding breeding alternatives for the northern white rhinoceros and one that delivers children’s educational programming, filled with animal interactions and animal stories, to promote the well-being of young patients … Lauren Fimbers Wood reports that the San Diego Museum of Art has put together its biggest exhibition in years — in both size and scope — which explores the social aspect of music and abstract representations of sound. “The Art of Music” opens Sept. 26 with works from Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, and more, alongside contemporary video, sound art and musical artifacts, including instruments from around the world, rock posters and an original Beethoven manuscript.

—After an award-winning, 38-year sports-writing career with the San Diego Union and authoring three books, Johnny McDonald now considers writing a hobby. You can reach him at

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