Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

For elementary students at Joy Elementary School, a field trip to Denali National Park was “the best field trip ever.”

The visit was part of the National Park Foundation’s Every Kid Outdoors program, which allowed these youngsters and their chaperones free access to the park. The program specifically focuses on fourth graders.

The group boarded an early morning southbound train at Fairbanks earlier this month.

“Although the day started much earlier than a normal school day, you wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone was sleepy,” said Aida Cotter, park ranger with the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. “After a four-hour train ride complete with board games, I Spy worksheets and lots of snacks, the group arrived ready to connect with their national park.”

They started at the Denali Visitor Center, then visited the Denali Sled Dog kennel and hiked on the Mountain Vista Trail.

“The smiles and enthusiasm were plentiful throughout the day and I did not hear one child complain they were bored,” Cotter said. “Hungry, yes, but no one complained they wanted to go home. In the age of electronics and information overload, I consider that a major win.”

The return trip was via chartered bus, and the program provided a box lunch to go.

Not only was this a first for many of these third- and fourth-graders but tt was also the first time many of them had ever been outside of Fairbanks. Some of them had older siblings who were able to take this same trip back in 2017, so they were excited to share the special experience.

“Knowing we were able to provide such a positive experience is exactly why I am in this line of work,” Cotter said.

She credited the support of the school, the Alaska Railroad staff, and partner organization Alaska Geographic. The National Park Foundation provided funds for the transportation and logistics through a grant awarded to Alaska Geographic.

The intent is to get kids outdoors. At the end of the field trip, each traveler received an Every Kid Outdoors Pass.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.