Students from a small Oklahoma town are getting ready for a trip of a lifetime. They’re heading to Yellowstone National Park for a hands-on learning experience.
But before they leave for the mountains, they're putting in the time in Oklahoma to make sure they're fully prepared.
In a single file line, Bluejacket students hike through the hills of Craig County, wearing big coats and backpacks. The adventure is preparing for an even bigger one in the country's oldest national park.
“I'm really excited to go to Yellowstone to see all the animals and mainly the bison,” said Bluejacket 5th grader Trent Laue.
Bluejacket is the first school in Oklahoma to ever be selected for "Expedition Yellowstone" -- a special 3-day program within Yellowstone National Park. The assignment is getting students out of the classroom and into the outdoors.
“Oh, I am excited about it; my kids are excited about it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” said science teacher Shawn Martin.
Martin, several other adults, and 30 5th-8th graders will travel to Yellowstone at the end of April.
They'll get special access to the park learning alongside experts, monitoring lava flows with seismologists, studying the unique ecosystem, and tracking grey wolves, just to name a few.
“Out in the field, that's an experience you can't replace,” Martin said. “Taking them up there in the oldest, most beautiful park in the country, that's gonna be a learning experience they're never gonna forget.”
The students have been meeting at least once a month for practice hikes to get them ready.
“It's really taught me, to not under estimate the weather because sometimes it'll surprise you,” said Bluejacket sixth grader Kenzie Williams.
They’re packing gear like they would during their trip and learning something new every steep of the way.
“I got a sleeping bag, extra shoes, um, socks and water,” said Bluejacket 7th grader Brock Williams. “[I’m learning] more about nature than anything."
Martin said he believes the experience will fuel his students for future career choices; for some it’s already working.
“I'm kind of deciding between being a wildlife biologist or a marine biologist,” said Kenzie.
It’s been a community effort to make it happen. The students have organized multiple fundraisers to pay for the trip and the gear they’ll need.
Their teacher said they're pretty much set, but there are a few students who still need some hiking gear.