These students at the Soaring Academy are reaching new heights

Soaring Academy gives students practical science lessons outside of the classroom

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

In this episode of Fueled by Death Cast, Jeff talks to Chris Bennett, who runs the Soaring Academy Glider School in Southern California with his wife, Julie. The Soaring Academy is a non-profit organization that offers a ton of different lessons for certification, in addition to working closely with students. A lot of those students are 8th graders from the iLead Schools in California.

Middle School Students stand around an airplane glider with an instructor

Bennett explains the idea he had in 2009 about working with younger generations, particularly those with STEM programs and iLEAD schools.

“A big part of the glider community are clubs. Clubs are okay, but it's a bunch of guys getting together to drink beer and slap each other on the back, and then they go fly gliders," he said. "And the business model that we came up with is we wanted to give something back. We didn't want to just have a bunch of self-centered guys flying.”

Bennett wanted to work with STEM kids to get them excited about math and science, using aviation as a backdrop. Eighth graders, some as young as 13, are introduced to the program at The Soaring Academy. Some of these kids are so moved by the experience, it sets them on an aviation career path.

It is one thing to learn about slope — "rise over run"— in a classroom. But for the kids at iLEAD, or other schools The Soaring Academy works with, they take this lesson to the next level actually build a glider.

“We're going to measure the L over D, the lift over drag, the glide ratio of this glider,” Bennett said. Through this, teachers can work in the theory of slope in a practical example.

To say these kids are excited is an understatement.

"If the kids decide to train, then they have to get real about this subject matter and really have to drill down and learn it,” he said. “We've had several kids come through our program that go to like Embry-Riddle or North Dakota, these aviation-based schools. We've had two girls who trained here; both went on to the US Air Force Academy. And one of them, last time I checked, is flying F-16s.”

Watch the clip from the episode below, and catch the entire experience of the Soaring Academy and kids on Episode 140: Fueled by Death Cast.