Although it was a matter of pride, it sure was a whole lot of fun too. Drivers in a veritable platoon of 4X4 vehicles revved up their motors and displayed their vehicles' rock climbing skills all in the name of academics.

One by one, the Jeeps, dune buggies and other rough-riding four-wheelers climbed as high as they could onto a ramp. Once they reached their zenith, the scores were announced to the nearly 400 cheering students from 750-student Maple Elementary School.

Ted Kalil talked about the Adopt-A-Trail program, taking questions from the youngsters about off-road driving and nature conservancy.

For a finale, members of the Victor Valley 4-Wheelers, a club of off-road enthusiasts who promote fun and conservancy, climbed their vehicles onto one another. By the end, the knobby tires of three vehicles had joined together.

"This is part of Mountain Lion Pride," principal Karen Elgan said earlier. "The 4X4 demonstration is a reward for our Academics Incentive Program."

The first year the program began, only a handful of students had earned their right to enjoy the fruits of maintaining four areas: grades, attendance, behavior and homework.
"This year we started with 375 students," she said.

And that translates into something everyone wants - better students.

"Behavior problems have gone away and academics have gone up."