BALDWIN — On April 14, the sixth graders of Baldwin Elementary School were presented with a check for $1,000 from the Baldwin Rotary Club.

They earned this money by reading 1,000 books during the past year, a goal they set with the Rotary Club in order to raise money for their class trip to Chicago.

"They came and made a presentation saying they wanted to raise the money," said Baldwin Rotary Board Member Harold Nichols. "We wanted them to set a goal, this reading 1,000 books, and they blew us all away. We're so happy to be a part of it."

The $1,000 from the Rotary will be added to the $12,000 the students also raised by selling food like popcorn, fruit and beef jerky throughout the community and at school events.

"You guys donated your time and effort, and because of that you accomplished something big," Superintendent Stiles Simmons said to the kids at the presentation assembly. "Some twelfth graders take four years to raise as much as you guys did in less than a year. We are all very proud of you."

The trip was the idea of sixth grade teacher Stacie Bowden. Bowden said she got the idea from her own cancelled eighth grade trip to Chicago. She believed such a trip would be a great experience for her students.

"We learn about ecosystems so we're going to the zoo and aquarium," said Bowden. "This lets the kids travel outside their home state and see a little of the world."

She and fellow sixth grade teacher Kathleen Neeland brought the idea to Simmons, who supported the idea whole-heartedly.

"We all thought the sixth grade was the perfect time to do this as they are moving from elementary to middle school," said Neeland. "It gives them a more worldly outlook and lets them see the world in a way they can't from inside a classroom."

The class left on the morning of April 15, and will return the evening of Thursday, April 16. Along with the zoo and aquarium, they planned on visiting the Museum of Science and Industry and the Navy Pier.

"The fact they've raised thousands of dollars in such a limited amount of time is fantastic," said Simmons. "I'm excited the students worked so hard, and I'm also excited we have so many parents who helped out and volunteered as chaperones. Any time you can take students out of their area to learn and get exposed to new things is great."