Sure they'll miss school while riding roller coasters and eating lunch with astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center, but the Philip F. Lauer Middle School trip to Walt Disney World next week is all about learning — and maybe a little fun.
Thirty students, four teachers and one principal will travel to Florida on Jan. 12 for a five-day trip for a behind-the-scenes view of the parks through the Disney YES! Program.
Principal Dennis Harper described the youth education series as "the ultimate educational field trip."
Instead of touring museums or trudging around battlefields the group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will compete to see who can hold cylinders of water without spilling a drop while riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. They will ride Space Mountain without special effects and learn about saving the oceans at Sea World.
"It's a classroom but not like any other classroom," said teacher Linda Rush. Rush has gone on the trip each of the nine years the school has participated.
Rush led parents and students through the final check list and itinerary during a pre-departure meeting Wednesday.
Parent Bob Gornick sent his daughter on the trip last year and is sending his eighth-grade son this year.
"The trip is a way to recognize kids who are doing a good job," Gornick said.
Gornick knows the trip is more than just a vacation. Students are responsible for completing a scrap book when they return and presenting their experiences to the school board.
"It's pretty intense," Gornick said.
To be eligible, students must be passing all of their classes, have a clean behavior record and pay $850.
"(We) hold them to a pretty high standard," Rush said of the students going on the trip.
Kathy Lilley is excited to send her 13-year-old daughter on the trip and expects Jessica to come back with advanced educational and social skills. But Lilley's excitement comes with some concerns.
"I'm going to be nervous having her away from home," Lilley admitted.
Jessica doesn't share her mother's apprehensions.
"I'm really excited about Epcot Center because I'm into ocean stuff," Jessica Lilley said. "I'm not really nervous about being away from home," she added.
Jessica Lilley plans to bring missed school work on the airplane so she doesn't fall behind her classmates.
Eighth-grader Pat Callanan went on the trip last year and is looking forward to the Kennedy Space Center this year.
"We did stuff a regular family couldn't do," Callanan said.
Rush said the program is an extension of what the students are learning in school.
"It's a wonderful hands-on learning experience," Rush said. "No other school has a program quite like ours."
Reporter Courtney Lomax can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.