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Helicopter engages students with science

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — The large black helicopter whirring above an east side school and neighborhood on Saturday was part of a special fly in to launch the flying classroom program

Piloted by Capt. Barrington Irving, an educator and National Geographic Emerging Explorer the chopper that departed Ann Arbor Trail Magnet Middle School and landed at Fisher Magnet Upper Academy, is intended to engage students studying STEM+ (science, technology, engineering and math plus English Literacy Arts) to life.

Fisher student Jaretha Cole, 12, I the 7th grade, rode in the helicopter from Ann Arbor Trail to Fisher with the pilot and her science teacher Susan Morandy.

“I had never been inside an airplane or a helicopter so I was nervous at first,” said Jaretha. “It felt like being inside a big map because when I looked down, the city of Detroit seemed so big.”

After the helicopter landed, Irving presented examples from his innovative curriculum and discussed the new program. Irving and STEM professionals launched in 2014 on an exploration that lasted nine weeks and included 16 expeditions between North America, Asia and Australia. Irving is the youngest man and only African American to fly solo around the world.

“This is bigger than aviation,” said Rod Brown, executive director of planning for the district, who was at Fisher. “A lot of topics are covered and STEM is the vehicle to laying the foundation to enter any industry with transcendent skill sets.”

Brown said the flying school concept is a pilot program in 17 schools, in 45 classrooms and impacts over 1,500 students.

Parent Charles Gray was at Fischer with his daughters Nyela Griffin, 7 and Anyah Griffin, 6.

“I think it’s great to broaden their horizons this way,” he said while his daughters hugged his neck.

”This shows them there are different options and things you can do to make an impact on society.”

Captain Irving showed the audience slides of himself at the Pyramids and other far-off locations.

“You have to be the greatest believer in your dream,” he said. “I have been to every continent except Antartica. This is all about showing kids what is possible.”

SLewis@detroitnews.com

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