PORTAGE VALLEY, AK (KTUU) When the school bell rang Friday for 4th graders at Tyson Elementary School in Anchorage, they left their classrooms in Mountain View miles behind for a nature adventure at Portage Glacier.
About 60 students took part in the field trip as part of a program called "Every Kid in the Park", funded by a federal grant from the U.S Forest Service.
"I think it can be really be a life changing experience for them to see what there is outside of their radius, outside of their neighborhood so they understand the bigger picture of what is outdoors, what is the environment they live in" said Brendan Stuart with the Anchorage Park Foundation, which uses the grant money to pay for the bus ride and glacier boat tour.
Stuart says five school groups, from Mountain View, Fairview and Muldoon, have taken the trip this school year, which includes a nature hike conducted by rangers at the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center.
"Most of out kids are city kids, they never really make it out of Anchorage" said Retta Woolfenden, a 4th grade teacher at Tyson Elementary. "This gives them an idea that it's a much bigger world, that Alaska is much bigger than Anchorage."
After the tour, the kids get a bonus to bring back to their families.
"These children all earn their 'Every Kid in the Park' pass" said Lezlie Murray, director of the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center. "They can bring their families to this place, to Denali and other federal sites across the country for the next year at no charge, so that is very exciting and kind of opens the world to the children and their families, which is what this is all about."
The Anchorage Park Foundation hopes to continue the program next school year, but that will depend on getting additional grant money.
The Begich-Boggs Visitor center will close for the season after Monday.