Pour one out for our lost, misspent youth.
My kids both are self-proclaimed nerds and science geeks. I celebrate this and encourage them to embrace the geek culture that is considered cool today. This is not the world of my youth. Were I to think of a geek, it's Brian, the brace-faced and awkward Michael Anthony Hall of The Breakfast Club, who was much maligned and mercilessly teased. He wasn't celebrated for being a brain; this was not an aspiration for his peers... and yet, here we are, his peers, now parents and celebrating our own kids and their love of geek culture. I think it's because, like the lesson affirmed by The Breakfast Club, "... each one of us is a brain ... and an athlete ... and a basket case ... a princess ... and a criminal." Maybe we finally realized that reality is so much better than a stereotype?
I have a lot of friends who homeschool their kids, and while I don't homeschool, I am always looking for learning opportunities for my kids. And being as how I did not so much fall into the brain category in my own high school years, I know to seek opportunities outside of my own realm. We read books, we visit museums, we watch documentaries and try to experience things outside of our comfort zones.
Now back on point! I was able to give my nerd-identifying children the opportunity to quite literally jump off a bridge (if you think of bridge as a control room) at iFly OKC, one of the locations of the world's largest indoor skydiving operations. As a person who previously scaled down the side of a building when asked to, in order to build awareness for a good cause, this sounded like a fantastic opportunity. As a person who has also been struggling with lower back pain, it sounded like an even more fantastic opportunity for my kids to partake in while I watched.
|Waiting their turns on the observation deck|
We are no strangers to the wind, right? I mean, as Oklahomans, we're used to saying things like "it's not windy, it's just a breeze!" while our hair whips around us and out of towners stare in disbelief; but this is a wind of a different sort. In this roughly three-story tall tunnel, the wind is channeled around, allowing for lift and a one-of-a-kind experience. Even if a person were afraid of heights (ahem, yes we are), this is a manageable risk because height is not so much an issue.
Next, we were brought into a classroom to watch a short video on indoor skydiving, receive safety tips from our instructor and learn some basic hand signals and proper posture for success. After suiting up, it was time to fly!
Each participant gets two one-minute flights in the tunnel—this was my favorite part, because I'm that person who is always too nervous to enjoy the first time I'm trying something new. Each person was brought in turn into the tunnel, assisted by an instructor who constantly helped, offering advice and helping to make the experience fun. Flyers can choose to add a high-flight onto their experience—which means that during the last half of their second flight, the instructor will join them in flying high up into the tunnel. So fun.
But... there's always a but, right?
It's not for everyone... in fact, I had one child who absolutely loved every moment to the point where I thought his face would crack open from his giant, uncontrolled smiles. He's my adrenaline junkie nerd and he would have preferred to do the flight on his own with minimal interaction from the instructor.
My other child did not enjoy it as much and found it more of a struggle, but was still thrilled to have checked this off her bucket list. She's my risk-averse nerd who would have preferred the instructor to be directly in front of her, guiding her through each step of her flights.
Something to keep in mind is that this is not a passive activity—it's a sport. It takes focus and control, and as with any sport, there is a chance of injury but also a high potential for fun.
It's also a pretty fantastic learning experience. In fact, iFly has a great STEM Education Program for school group (even homeschooling groups), where they get hands-on learning opportunities about science, technology, engineering and math, including class materials, resources and training.
Overall, iFly OKC was a huge hit. We learned about aerodynamics, had fun doing it and found a potential new hobby. What a great addition to Oklahoma City!