There aren't many school field trips that include a flight on a chartered jet and a visit from Santa, but that's what unfolded Tuesday with the highlight of the trip coming at the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge.
The story begins with an early morning flight in Atlanta. Thirty-four kids from the Unidos Dual Language Charter School boarded the special charter flight dubbed "Santa's Special Sleigh." Expressjet Airlines has partnered with the Clayton County School system in Georgia to make the trip possible.
The all-expenses-paid day trip to an East Tennessee museum serves as a December gift for these kids who excelled in reading programs.
For one of the young travelers, the journey marks several firsts. It was his first take off, his first ever landing, and his first trip to the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge.
"The reason I got to go on this plane is I worked hard by reading books," said Kiwi Cody. "It wasn't really what I expected. I expected it to be scary but it wasn't."
At the museum, the kids are treated to hands-on lessons.
"What makes it fun is when you are learning you are playing, too," said Kennedy Hood.
"The coolest room that I saw was the space room," said Joshua Mpanzu.
"Every year our students look forward to this. It is a real motivating factor for our kids. And some of them, it is the first thing they ask about when they come back from the summer and work toward getting here today," said teacher Dell Giles.
Their final hours in Tennessee includes lunch, and before they hop back on their return flight, a special visit from someone who is used to flying but prefers a sleigh.
"Has everyone been good this year," asked Santa.
The answer? A resounding "Yes!" from all the kids.