An astronaut goes to school to tell his story and sell a new video game.

BEAM ME UP: L. Gordon Cooper Jr., one of the original seven Mercury astronauts who pioneered the U.S. space program in the 1960s, shared his experiences with a fifth-grade class at Ramona Elementary School in Hawthorne on Friday. Cooper's visit came after the class had spent several weeks designing space stations and learning about physics.

Beth Petak-Aaron, who was among a group of teachers who attended NASA's Space Camp, said the purpose of Cooper's visit and the space station design exercise was "to keep kids excited about science. By doing inventions and things like this, it keeps excitement around."

The students engaged in a question-and-answer session with the famous astronaut about his experiences. Asked how he perceived the Earth from space, Cooper, 66, said: "It makes you wonder why we can't have peace and quit all this warfare. It's a very beautiful place that's very fragile. We have to take care of it."

Besides giving students an astronaut's view of science, there was another purpose to Gordon's visit: He's promoting a new Nintendo game that simulates space flight.

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STAY TUNED: Carson residents who wish to sound off on a proposal to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District will have their time in the spotlight--via cable television.

Continental Cablevision will broadcast a program on Channel 26 April 13 at 7 p.m. in which a panel of guests will weigh the pros and cons of secession. The City Council has decided not to sponsor any community forums on the issue after learning of the plans for the cable show.

Carson is among several cities and communities thinking about leaving the Los Angeles school district because of concerns that the sprawling agency is too big to serve its far-flung students properly. Parents have complained about poor facilities and unresponsive administration.

Terry Halberg, Continental's community programmer, said panelists have not been selected, but they will include a school district representative, parents and others interested in the issue. The forum, he said, will not be a debate but a non-confrontational outlet for residents to hear all sides of the issue.

"This is shaping up to be a pretty weighty issue," he said.

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TOP DOG: The folks over at the North Redondo Beach Rotary Club didn't seek out the publicity; they were just trying to do the right thing. But someone over at Century Cable noticed, and nominated the club for the "Good News Person/Group" competition sponsored by the video cable channel VH-1.

According to Nigel Ives, Century's general manager, the Rotary Club was singled out because of its long support of the Redondo Beach Police Department's K-9 unit. The club has purchased two patrol dogs for the department and is raising money to buy a third.

"They do a lot of good work with little or no advertising or a pat on the back," Ives said.

The Rotary nomination moves the club into a national competition sponsored by VH-1. The prize: Free national advertising, $1,000 and other awards.

Wayne Bradshaw, Rotary club president-elect, said that if the club wins the $1,000, it will use the money--how else?--toward the purchase of another police dog.

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BEST INVITATION: One-hundred-forty El Camino College students have been chosen to participate in the glitz and glamour of the Academy Awards ceremony on Monday in Los Angeles. The Academy, which bestows the awards, extended the invitation and is sending buses to pick up the students at the college because it needs to fill empty seats for the ceremony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The students have been told to dress up. And, please, no autograph seeking.

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HOSPITAL NUPTIALS: The final touch on the marriage of two area hospitals was announced this week: San Pedro Peninsula Hospital will shed its conch shell symbol as part of its new affiliation with Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance.

Both hospitals will now use the same logo: the traditional cross-and-triangle that has symbolized the Little Company of Mary hospitals across the United States for 30 years. A survey of employees, volunteers and donors found they approved of the change.

The two hospitals, 11 miles apart, have shared a single board of directors since late last year in what is being called an "affiliation" instead of an outright merger.

Such link-ups may be the wave of the future because they save money and avoid duplication, experts say. The two hospitals are expected to save $1 million in the first year in purchasing and materials, said James C. Lester, president of Little Company of Mary Health Services, which oversees both hospitals.

"We think that integrated delivery systems are going to be the model form that's going to be talked about" by the Clinton Administration, Lester said. The hospitals' newly integrated logo will not be immediately visible to the public. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital plans to use up its old conch-shell stationery, and signs at the facility will not be changed until June.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"That was very difficult because I could not do much except try and comfort her. There is really nothing you can do for a mother who feels pain and has lost her child."

--Carson resident Sally Garcia, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department civilian volunteer of the year, on how she tried to console the mother of a slain gang member.

LAST WEEK'S

CITY HALL HIGHLIGHTS

Gardena: The City Council took the first step toward beefing up its anti-graffiti ordinance that regulates the sale of spray paint to minors. Under changes introduced last week, all spray paint, regardless of the size of the can, would have to be stored in a locked place away from the public. In addition, the amended ordinance would prohibit the sale of wide-tip marker pens to people under age 18. Spray paint and marker pens are used by graffiti taggers. The council is expected to adopt the ordinance at its meeting April 13. Violators could face a six-month jail term or a fine up to $1,000.

THIS WEEK'S

CITY HALL HIGHLIGHTS

Hermosa Beach: The City Council will accept applications for the treasurer's post until Tuesday. The position has been vacant since Gary L. Brutsch resigned earlier this month. The council has not decided when it will pick Brutsch's replacement, who would serve the remainder of his term, which ends in 1995.

Carson: The filing deadline for the special City Council election June 8 is Thursday. So far six people have taken out nominating papers to run for the seat left open by Juanita McDonald's election to the state Assembly last November.

MEETINGS THIS WEEK

Lawndale: 7 p.m. Thursday, 14717 Burin Ave. (310) 973-4321. Televised live on Channel 60 and repeated several times during the week.

Los Angeles: 10 a.m. Friday at 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles. In San Pedro, (310) 548-7637; in Wilmington, (310) 548-7586; in Harbor City/Harbor Gateway, (310) 548-7664; in Westchester, (310) 641-4717. Televised live on Channel 35; meetings repeated individually at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and collectively on Sunday starting at 10 a.m.

with staff reports

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