COLUMBIA — A Columbia Public Schools science field trip to Wyoming has become so popular that this year, it has been split into three big groups.
A total of 303 students and 42 teachers will make the 24-hour bus ride to Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyo.
In the trip's first year, 2011, a group of 77 students and 12 teachers made the trip. Last year, the number grew to 206 students and 23 teachers.
"It's been incredible," said Mike Szydlowski, Columbia Public Schools' science department coordinator, about the trip's growth in the past three years. He ran a similar trip when he taught in St. Louis and organized one when he came to Columbia Public Schools in 2011.
The trip gives students an opportunity to hike, track wildlife, and study forest fires, ecology and other science-related topics. They also pay a visit to Yellowstone National Park.
"They learn a ton while they're up there," Szydlowski said. "It's also about leadership and independence, so even though it's a science trip, the kids gain a lot of maturity while they're out there."
That's one of the reasons parents don't get to come, though Szydlowski said he could probably fill a trip with moms and dads who want to go along.
The students, who are in grades 6-12, will leave in groups of roughly 80-120 over the next three weeks. They raise the money themselves to take the trip, which costs $790 per student. Fees are waived for teachers by the Teton Science School, so the experience doesn't cost the school district, Szydlowski said.
"We ask that (students be) interested in science, but we've never turned anybody away," Szydlowski said. "If they're having financial trouble, we'll help them with fundraising, so every kid gets to go that wants to."
The first group will depart by coach bus Saturday and will return June 7, the day the second group leaves.
The Missourian will publish updates from some of the students as they send them during their trip.
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.