The rain forest trips took root in March 1991 when Zeeland Christian teacher Carla Za strow and Zeeland Middle School teachers Jim Cronk and Jan Props t attended a rain forest workshop. From the information they learned, they developed a curriculum to be used in the both public and Christian schools. A group of 39 middle school students, 26 from Zeeland public and 13 from Zeeland Christian, went on that first trip to the Explorama Lodge near Iquitos, Peru, in the Amazon River Basin in 1992. Now the program has expanded. This summer students, primarily seventh and eighth grade, from Zeeland Public, Zeeland Christian, Holland Public, Holland Christian, Black River Charter School and West Ottawa will be traveling to Peru to study the rain forest.

One group will make the trip from June 20-28 while the other one will go from July 25-Aug. 1. For the first five years the local students went to Peru, but last year they went to Costa Rica where they studied both rain forests and seashore ecology. Another trip to Costa Rica is planned for next year. Organizers plans to alternate between Costa Rica and Peru in the future. Students are looking forward to studying the plant and wildlife in Peru.

"I'm going to find out about different cultures and to see the animals," said Andrea Cherry, 12. "I'm going to see there to see all the different types of plants and animals," said Leslie Glupker, 13. Jeff Geer lings, 12, decided he wanted to go after his sister, Jennifer, went to the rain forest two years ago. "She came back excited, that's why I want to go," he said. "I want to go see what the people are like down there and to see the animals." More than half of all the plants and animals reside in rain forests.

Scientists believe that many medicines can be found from plants and animals. And the rain forest affects the world's climate. "Plant life is very important as far as medicinal purposes," said Zeeland Creekside Middle School science teacher Mark Reinardy, who will be making his sixth trip to the rain forest this summer. "The rain forest is considered the most bio diverse place on Earth." At one time, rain forests covered 12 percent of the Earth's land mass. Now it's more like 8 percent, Reinardy said.

About 1 percent has been lost in the last seven years.