SHADY SIDE (KDKA) – Schools are constantly evaluating new ways to educate our kids. However, a trip to the Amazon rain forest is taking distance learning to a whole new level.

For some lucky students at Shady Side Academy, it’s a trip of a lifetime.

“I think of trees, huge trees, and of course, when you say rain forest, I think of rain and we are going in the wet season so, it should be raining a lot,” Shelby Latterman said.

“We are going to be spending time with meeting the indigenous people and then we are going to a monkey sanctuary,” Mara Barron said.

Those are just some expectations of the students who left for the Amazon rain forest over the weekend.

“I think some things always seem a little scarier when you aren’t there, but I think once we get there in the rainforest, I think we’ll forget any of any fears or anxieties because we’ll be so fascinated. Every minute that we’re there, I think we will be in awe,” Linda Cangiano said.

Cangiano is going on the trip as a mom of one of the nine Shady Side Academy kids on the trip. Her husband, Tom, is the president of the school.

“I think this is one of the big trends is this kind of experiential learning for kids particularly in our science curricula, but also in some of our other curriculums as well,” Tom Cangiano.

They’ll spend four days on land and then 10 days on a boat learning about the rain forest and doing research through online video blogs. As a result, the kids become the teachers for students across the United States.

“It’s a child-to-child interaction. I think that’s even more exciting because it’s like ‘I can do this. I can go to these places.’ It’s not just these older guys that are researching. You can go and experience these things,” trip organizer Susan Wilkes said.

Ted and Susan Wilkes led a similar trip to Antarctica last year. Now, their group called Planet A to Z is off to the Amazon.

“You can’t take them all with you, but you could bring it to them and that is the purpose or the mission of what Planet A to Z is. To immerse these kids and get them excited outside of what they know,” Ted Wilkes said.

Tour host Jason Court is making sure everyone packs flexibility for this trip.

“We just have to fly by the seat of our pants, but we remember we have 10 kids with us. We also have to observe and watch them. If we see them excited about something, then we have to jump in and capture that excitement,” Court said.

And hopefully and successfully share it with students thousands of miles away.

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