As soon as 5-year-old Brandon Harris saw the small yellow plane at Saddleback College, he jumped in and proclaimed, "I want to be a pilot."
He was among hundreds of South County's youngest students who converged on the hilly college campus Friday for an early lesson on academic aspiration and career choices.
The children were participating in KinderCaminata, an annual event that began in 1994 as a way to introduce kindergartners to a variety of professions and the importance of higher education.
The name is a combination of the German word for "children" and the Spanish word for "promenade."
"This is wonderful," said Brandon's mother, Redena Harris. "My child is a sponge right now. He's absorbing everything. This event is giving him insight of what goes on in college."
Doctors had kids listening to their heartbeat with stethoscopes, environmentalists had them petting stuffed birds, horticulturists let them smell different mint plants and paramedics taught them CPR.
Saddleback's television and film students set up a mock interview in which the children stepped up to a microphone and gave their names and future jobs on camera.
"I want to be a NASA engineer and invent spaceships," 6-year-old Joshua Faskowitz said. "I know I have to graduate from college first to learn how to do it."
That was the point of Friday's event, organizers said.
The scene will be repeated in the coming weeks at community college campuses throughout the county.
Cypress, Golden West, Irvine Valley and Santa Ana colleges will hold KinderCaminata on Friday, and Fullerton and Santiago Canyon colleges will hold it April 3.
More than 30,000 children are expected to participate.
KinderCaminata usually is held on or within weeks of the anniversary of the late labor leader Cesar Chavez's birthday--March 31. Its founder, Galal Kernahan, chose the date as a tribute to Chavez.
The tradition continues this year as Andres Chavez, the 5-year-old grandson of the renowned United Farm Workers leader, will serve as grand marshal of the promenade at Santiago Canyon College.