CCES STEM students learn about flying, wind tunnels at iFly

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Field trips sure have changed in the past few decades. 

A group of GATEWAY students from Clear Creek Elementary School got a sample of what it feels like to jump out of an airplane during their visit to iFly Atlanta the last week of school.

The 51 fourth- and fifth-graders and 10 chaperones took part in an interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics presentation, physics lesson and flight training before suiting up to try indoor sky diving. 

GATEWAY teacher Robin Morrow said she and fellow GATEWAY teacher Shelly Abernathy learned about iFly after having a class there last year when they were working on a science endorsement in the Math/Science Partnership through Kennesaw State University.

“Prior to going to iFly, I expected their STEM field trip experience to be basic and be a simple overview of STEM,” she said. “We were amazed by the level of instruction, the real-world application and the engagement level of the STEM Field Trip Program. We wanted to provide our students with the same opportunity to have a unique experience and see the application and excitement of STEM in the community.” 

The two teachers, along with instructional lead teacher Jennifer Mauldin and paraprofessional Jessica McKinney, took students who study STEM in GATEWAY or on the after-school STEAM team to participate in the three-hour experience.   

“Students began with a lecture session where they learned about the engineering design process involved in creating and improving the wind tunnels by iFly,” Morrow said. “Students learned about the physics and math required to create a safe flying experience.”

After the lecture and presentation, they got to witness firsthand how different materials such as water, a beach ball, a basketball and a Nerf gun performed inside the wind tunnel, Morrow said.

“Students also watched an expert flyer perform various tricks and experiments in the wind tunnel,” she said. “For the next activity, students were able to apply their knowledge and understanding to design and experiment with a parachute STEM challenge. Finally, students participated in flight instruction and safety training before suiting up and flying in the wind tunnel.” 

Morrow said she hoped they “learned some of the physics principles involved in flying and the application of STEM in the real world.” 

Rising fifth-grader Kaydence Dustin learned several fundamentals of flying from the presentations. 

“The instructors taught everyone how to use wind dynamics with the flow of their bodies in the wind tunnel,” the 9-year-old said. “The instructors showed hand instructions to be able to balance in air flight. When there was a lighter-weight person, there was less wind force, and when there was a heavier person, there was more wind force to keep them up.”

Emma Phillips, who just finished fifth grade, said she learned about “how they get people to fly when they step inside the chamber and the physics behind it as well.”

Morrow said she was very pleased with the field trip and with “the opportunity to see our students conquer fears, collaborate to solve problems and encourage each other.”

“It was exciting to see students have an ‘a-ha’ experience and be able to explain the physics concepts reinforced throughout the day,” she said. 

Ten-year-old Keira Woodside, a rising fifth-grader, said the flying was her favorite part of the day “because it felt like I was falling and sky diving, and it was a lot of fun.”

Emma, 11, also enjoyed the flying and “the feeling when you are actually in the air.”

“I also enjoyed being able to stay with my friends the entire time,” she said.