BROOKSVILLE — Flight attendants Morgan Eckenroth, 10, and Alexis Cento, 10, moved their beverage cart through the aisles of Pine Grove Southwest Flight 800, serving sodas, juice and water to students who earned the right to make the simulated flight to Hawaii.
The Pine Grove Elementary fourth-grade two-day tropical trek included a simulated flight to Los Angeles, then on to Hawaii for a luau and island attractions. It wasn't free; students had to earn money, budget it and pay for the trip.
It all began at the beginning of the school year, when the fourth-grade teachers — Patty Doyle, Melodie Hall, Glenda Shea, Jessica Kinkade and Michelle Haenel — decided on a behavior/academic reward program. The students were paid play money, which they saved for the trip.
"It was an end-of-year activity that the students worked toward all year," Doyle said.
A seat in first class cost $3,000; economy seating was $1,000. There was a luggage fee. First-class seats were closer to the front of the faux aircraft, closer to the screen with the in-flight movie (about Hawaii). First-class passengers were entitled to sodas. Those in coach could choose juice or water.
The flight began with the student flight attendants reading airline safety policies. Then the students watched a video of a safety pitch from a real Southwest flight attendant and an actual airplane taking off.
Five students — Morgan; Alexis; Serenidy Scott, 10; Derek Chiaromonte, 10, and Joel Martinez, 10 — were the flight attendants. Derek and Joel doubled as bag handlers.
Susan Ann Hemme, a Southwest Airlines operations agent, was at Pine Grove for the event, providing real bag tags, children's first-time-flier kits and Southwest pretzel snacks.
After the hour-and-a-half flight, students returned to their classrooms for the luau. The attractions were the next day. Those were $500 each and included sand art, hula lessons, ukulele lessons and making Hawaiian jewelry and volcanoes.
The earning, saving, budgeting and spending choices were "real world learning," said Hall.
And there was more to it than just the pretend trip.
"They learned the culture of Hawaii, populations, symbols," she said.