Over three days in the third week of October, eight Marnie Simons students and three adults traveled 530 miles from the school to the Mermet Springs, Ill., scuba diving training center across the Ohio River from Paducah, Ky.
Their goal: to become nationally certified in scuba diving after several weeks of training in the Hamburg School District's scuba course.
The group left Hamburg at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, arriving in Paducah at 11 p.m. The next morning, they checked their gear in preparation for the first of three dives on Friday—two scuba dives and one snorkeling dive.
“This was by far one of the best classes we've had,” said School District Superintendent and Principal Dr. Mike Wells. “They weren't nervous, and just performed very well.”
On the snorkel dive, the divers go down 15 feet wearing only snorkel, face mask and fins, and pick up weights from an underwater platform. “None of  them had problems with that,” said Wells.
The two scuba dives saw the divers descend to a depth of about 60 feet. Bill Peeler, who with Bill Barrett and Wells was one of the three adults on the trip, said the most fun part “was exploring everything that's under the water”—sunken vehicles including “a school bus, boats, helicopters, fire trucks,” and even a section of the airplane fuselage from the plane crash scene in the 1998 movie “U.S. Marshals,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes.
After Friday's dives, the divers went back to the hotel to shower, then out for supper at a Mexican restaurant. After the meal they retreated to the hotel pool for more fun. “It's amazing—they still wanted to swim. So they swam in the pool until they kicked us out at 11 o'clock,” said Wells.
Saturday morning they were back at the spring-fed quarry which serves as the diving site.
“It is truly a training site. They train first aid, emergency, different types of diving,” said Wells. “There's a full-time staff there. If something were to happen, they're down to the water to take care of the situation immediately.”

“These are young divers, middle-school kids 12 or 13 years old. It's kind of nice to have that extra help just in case you need it,” said Wells.
Mermet Springs trains divers from all over the country, but it is a long drive for Hamburg folks. Wells is eyeing options closer to home—a quarry in Council Bluffs, and one near Hamburg that was used for scuba diving in the past.
The school's scuba program, which with the diver certification test in Mermet Springs is now complete, has morphed into a scuba club that will meet every two weeks or so to hone skills and gain experience. Wells is looking at a trip to Florida in June, “so the kids can see what warm water and good water looks like. They won't want to go back,” Wells said.
“The next class will start in the spring. We're looking for adults who want to be part of it. The club is open to our community,” said Wells. He is looking at buying diving gear that the school will own and that can be checked out by certified divers.
“We'd like to get ten kids and ten adults,” he said. Residents of Hamburg who are interested in participating should email Dr. Mike Wells at mwells@hamburgcsd.org.