Summer science and sport: iFLY's Flight School



Oklahoma City family fun makes learning an extraordinary part of summertime. 

My son, Isaac, is 6 and he loves science. I am always looking for ways to foster that interest but sometimes the same workbooks and "let's try this experiment with household items" activities wear thin. We decided to change up the summer and do something different: a couple of iFLY Flight School classes.

Isaac tried iFLY last year and loved the experience. We've since read the Greek myth of Icarus and indoor skydiving is about as close as one can come to actually flying, no feathers or wings involved. A more systematic approach, though, gives students a chance to build skills, something I really hadn't considered. 

Although Isaac had fun, the first time he tried iFLY was more of a novelty than actual science or athletics. We didn't know what to expect from Flight School at all.

Indoor skydiving, it turns out, is more of a progression sport than a one-time thing to do. iFLY hosts an elite training program that's certified by the International Bodyflight Association to teach technique and safety standards. Flying on a more consistent basis, like these once-weekly sessions, really helps build kids' abilities.

The ability to just jump in and start something totally foreign alongside kids who have been taking classes for months was somewhat worrisome, given that the other kids in Isaac's new class definitely had skills he just hadn't had the chance to develop yet. That anxiety, though, was totally unfounded. The Flight School instructors are highly trained and they customize each kid's flights to his or her abilities; it didn't matter that Isaac stepped in as a 45-pound almost first-grader while his classmates were a head taller and anxious to start middle school this fall. 

The classes start with stretching and an overview of the class according to each student's charted progress according to his or her log; instructors write in it after each session so what they've covered and are working on is documented. The one-on-one training through five minutes of flight time is what makes the session worthwhile. Five minutes doesn't sound like a lot but it's actually quite a bit compared to the average novelty flight, which is just a couple of minutes, and that long inside the tunnel with its characteristic fans, which are loud and fast, is more than the average visitor would sign up for otherwise.  Classes are capped at 10 participants but there weren't more than six in either of Isaac's sessions, so they feel very personable. 

After the class, students have a snack and review their flight videos. Instructors point out what went well and what could use some work, the how and why of developing technique. 

I wasn't sure any of the above would be applicable to Isaac since he had just enrolled for a couple of classes. His progress, though, from one week to the next was observable. His legs were straighter, he felt more comfortable and capable each time. Class ended with instructors showing the kids some of their skills, which are fun for parents to see too. More than just novelty factor, though, they were a good reminder that the classes are a means to an end. Kids really can build up skills for indoor skydiving, which is a developing sport that also helps with regular skydiving if Isaac did choose to continue either path later.

I have four little boys and when repeating that fact to others, I usually get raised eyebrows from the person asking and some comment about hoping they don't cause me a lot of stress later due to high energy and what is apparently an rinnate impulse to seek out adrenaline-raising activities. As a parent, it feels a lot safer to see your child satisfy that sense of adventure through a controlled class session than by jumping off structures or out of planes just now. I would rather see Isaac continue this than, say, go bungee jumping.  

Fundamentals of flight are discussed as well, with terms like lift and drag as part of the conversation about how to do better in the tunnel. We definitely check the box on science education in a memorable way this summer.

If you're curious about iFLY's Flight School for your child, it's not too late to get started. You don't have to be concerned about joining an existing session since the program isn't structured that way; new kids step in all the time. 

No matter how you spend the rest of this summer, I hope it's fun and relaxing. As far as school goes, we'll be back in that routine before we know it, with science textbooks and lab sessions. I suspect that Flight School will supplement that formal learning in a way that just might make it all relevant. 

P.S. If you're looking for coupons for other fun local activities, find them here. And if you haven't entered our America's Incredible Pizza contest yet to enter to win a $100 gift card, participate here and you'll get a $10 card just for doing that. Enjoy your July! 

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