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Carpool to Nirvana

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Before Viewing

(For information on ordering a video copy of the Livelyhood "Carpool to Nirvana" contact The Working Group at 510-268-WORK or email info@livelyhood.org)

Use these tips to prepare your students to view the program thoughtfully:

1. Read the summary of the show to familiarize yourself with its contents.

2. Ask these questions to begin a discussion of the ideal workplace, and how working conditions could change for the better in the future.

• Which businesses in our area seem like great places to work? Why?

• Which ones seem not to be great places to work? Why?

• What would your ideal workplace be like?

• How do people get to and from work in our area? What problems do they experience?

3. Inform students that as they view the program, they will visit some places that are candidates for the ideal workplace; they will also visit some that are not as pleasant but that still offer workers satisfaction. You might suggest that students keep the following questions in mind as they view the episode:

• What factors seem to result in a pleasant working environment?

• What factors can make a job or workplace unsatisfactory?

• What could enable workers to feel satisfaction in a difficult work environment?

• How can workers and management join together to make a workplace both pleasant and productive?


While Viewing

"Carpool to Nirvana" presents the following segments:

Show Tease/Sponsors


Will Durst recalls predictions made in the past about what the future would be like–a future we are now living in.

Segment 1

Excite.com - Viewers meet Yolanda Rivers, one of two million people whose workplace is in cyberspace.

Segment 2

Los Angeles MTA - Viewers ride along with Robert Lujan, a driver in the second largest bus system in the country, and learn how he and his coworkers survive stress and take pride in helping their fellow Angelenos.

Segment 3

QMR Plastics - Viewers visit a manufacturing plant that is the opposite of the dark, crowded urban factories of yesteryear–a place where workers and management are only a glass wall away from each other.

Segment 4

Harley-Davidson - Viewers tour the plant where some of the world’s most popular motorcycles are built, and learn that it is a plant with no supervisors: the workers have the responsibility to decide how they will do their jobs.

Segment 5

The Commute - Will tries bicycling to work and discusses its pros and cons. He then shares the results of an on-line poll on the top five conditions making up the ideal workplace, and takes a coffee break to extol that beverage and comment on its importance in the modern workplace.

Segment 6

My New Desk Viewers learn how U Minnesota office worker Tiffany Simonsen suffered a disabling injury as the result of repetitive activity on the job, and see how a redesigned workstation and computer with a voice-activated word processing program has enabled her to do her job again. After that, viewers travel to the St. Louis area; there Will rides along with suburbanite Taulby Roach on a light-rail commute into the city and finds little to complain about.

Segment 7

TV Programmers and Producers’ Convention Will takes viewers to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to watch him pursue his dream job, that of TV critic, and see him come to the realization that it’s not as easy a job as it appears to be. Will then returns to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he discovers that zipping along the freeway in a carpool lane is his idea of a good commute.

Segment 8

SAS Software - Viewers meet Meg Koc, a woman who, after reading an article about an ideal workplace, quit her job (and convinced her husband to quit his), moved to North Carolina, managed to get a job with the firm she’d read about, and discovered that the article was right.



Pause once or twice while viewing to have students reflect on what they’ve seen. Ask:

• What kinds of work situations has the program shown so far?

• What attitudes do the workers interviewed have toward these situations?

• These are positive stories. What other stories might have been told about work situations?

• What are some secrets to making a workplace a good place for workers?

Ask whether students are confused about anything they’ve seen. Offer them the opportunity to visit the Livelyhood "Carpool to Nirvana" Web site to skim the summary of "Carpool to Nirvana." Also on the site, find additional interviews with workers, lists of resources, and opportunities for students to learn more about stories, characters, and concepts in the show.

After Viewing

A variety of resources are available for linking the content of the show to particular curriculum areas, and helping students apply the content to real-world situations relevant to their own lives.

1. Follow-up Questions. These encourage students to analyze and think critically about the situations and issues presented in the show.

You might begin by having students answer these questions:

• What factors seem to result in a pleasant working environment? (Give examples from the program.)

• What factors can make a job or workplace unsatisfactory?

• What can enable workers to feel satisfaction in difficult work environments?

• How can workers and management join together to make a workplace both pleasant and productive?

Continue by asking questions that will lead students to relate the content of the program to their own lives:

• Do you know anyone in this area who works in a place like one of the ones shown? Where does he or she work? In what ways are the two workplaces similar?

• This show profiled a number of workplaces. Which seems closest to ideal to you? Why?

• Are there any lessons to be learned from these stories? What are they? Has seeing the program changed what you will look for, when you look for work next time? Explain.

To give students opportunities to explore these issues actively and creatively, assign one or more of the cross-curricular activities.

2. Cross-Curricular Activities.These offer a variety of projects for individual students or small groups that extend concepts presented in "Carpool to Nirvana." Some of these activities utilize other features of the Livelyhood Web site. All activities are appropriate for students in grades 9-12. Some are suitable for younger students as well; others are appropriate for adult students.