Put on flight suits. Check.
Slip on goggles. Check.
Snap on helmets. Check.
It wasn’t your average school day for nearly 40 students from Banneker Elementary in Kansas City, Kan., who attended a unique field trip Wednesday, Nov. 8, for National STEM Day.
The fourth-grade students experienced the thrill of bodyflight inside a vertical wind tunnel at iFly Kansas City, an indoor skydiving venue in Overland Park
The students started their interactive learning adventure by watching iFly instructors, Logan Boudreaux and Kevin Bernardi, exhibit how objects, such as water and tennis balls, react in the powerful wind tunnel. The instructors then followed up with their own bodyflight demonstrations.
There were countless oohs and ahs along with dropped jaws as the children watched the power of wind lift the instructors out of sight then witnessed their heart-stopping freefall back into view.
“We want kids to see how they can use their learning in the real world,” said Caitlin Borel, a fourth-grade teacher at Banneker and the field trip’s coordinator. “Then, they can build on this experience when they are back in school and maybe think about a career in STEM. It’s one thing to learn about these fields. It’s another to get hands-on experience.”
After the demonstrations, students watched a short safety tip video and then donned flight uniforms to experience the thrill of bodyflight for themselves.
Each student suited up then, one at a time, entered the wind tunnel, where Bernardi guided them as they swooped up and down and tested their “wings” during an exhilarating flight experience.
Revelatory high-fives and applause from fellow students and teachers greeted the students after flight.
“This is about as close to being a superhero as you can get,” said Grace Elmore, communications specialist for the Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, as she watched students fly in the wind tunnel. “This is the best field trip I’ve ever been on.”
A team of iFLY STEM educators created the iFLY field trip experience to align with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Math, in order to inspire children about the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
The company also provided full scholarships for every student who attended Thursday’s innovative, interactive event. The unique opportunity super-charged students about their STEM studies and the possibility of a STEM-related career after experiencing the joy of flying.
“We give these kids the dream of flight,” Boudreaux said. “We love giving them this passion and inspiration. It’s the reason we became instructors. There’s nothing else like it unless you jump out of a plane.”
Kaley, one of the students on the field trip, sees a future jumping out of planes as a photographer in an aeronautical-related STEM field.
“I got to experience what skydiving felt like,” she said with excitement.
Meanwhile, Litzy plans to be a science teacher and has a keen interest in gravity.
“I got to watch how gravity works in space,” she said.
Francisco also has plans to be a science teacher — and just may want to organize a similar field trip down the road.
“I want to teach other kids about science and make them happy,” he said.
Jaymurion was among several students who said he plans to be a pilot.
“I love flying,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. “This is the best field trip ever.”
Little did they know, Borel had a post field-trip quiz planned for the students after they returned to school.
“There’s one question on the test,” she said. “It’s ‘How much fun did you have?’”