Every Thursday since the end of April, students from kindergarten-grade 6 at Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST) have had the chance to have a virtual learning session with a pretty famous teacher – Captain Barrington Irving of The Flying Classroom.
In 2007, Irving became both the youngest pilot and first African-American pilot to fly around the world solo (he did it in 97 days). He was 23 at the time. He spent several years traveling the globe as a National Geographic Explorer before launching the The Flying Classroom, a national hands-on learning program that focuses on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.
Each Flying Classroom lesson is based on Irving’s global expeditions. TOAST first implemented the program 2017, and Irving, a Florida resident, has visited Albany several times since. Although the program is STEM-based, it also includes activities related to geography, literacy, writing, art and social studies. Students work to develop critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity skills as they navigate through the content.
Irving started the June 4 virtual lesson by acknowledging the deep unrest in the country. He told the students, “Keep your head up and be proud of who you are – your culture and your history.” Then he launched into a lesson about food waste.
Students learned that each person was about food waste. In it, Irving took students on a virtual dumpster dive to demonstrate the amount of food thrown away each day by grocery stores. (He said he and has family have gone dumpster diving and never gotten sick, but they use their common sense when considering what to eat.)
Among the food-waste facts Irving shared: there are 1 billion tons of food wasted each year. A third of all food produced ends up in the trash. The average person creates about 4.5 pounds of trash a day. He also discussed the benefits of composting, recycling and reusing and dumpster diving behind grocery stores.
Each virtual session lasts about 25 minutes, and then Irving opens the mic to students and teachers who have questions. Topics covered so far range from parasites to eye surgery to airplanes made entirely from recycled materials. Next Thursday's session is the last of the school year, and the subject is HALO jump -- a kind of free-fall skydiving.