Flying Classroom Launches An After-School STEM Initiative for Student Learners in Virginia

 Opportunities for Hands-On And Virtual Learning Experiences Through Culturally Relevant Role Models

How can ALL kids become STEM-enthusiasts? After all, science, technology,  engineering and math[STEM]  Present opportunities for them to create, design, imagine and experience learning by placing ‘mirrors’ before them to demonstrate reality-based relatability. It’s a downright inspired teaching strategy for captivating the most vulnerable learners who often  sit ‘outside’ of the mainstream and attend lower income and under-performing schools.  

In Virginia’s Richmond and Henrico County,  hundreds of school students recently participated in virtual expeditions and other after-school STEM adventures and projects thanks to a wonderfully inspired partnership between Virginia Department of Education[VDOE] and Flying Classroom.

Flying Classroom is a supplemental STEM+ curriculum based on the global expeditions of pioneering African American aviator Barrington Irving. In 2007, Irving achieved two world records by becoming the youngest pilot and first African American to complete a solo flight around the world. Irving, who turned down football scholarships to pursue his dream of becoming an aviator, founded Flying Classroom in 2014 to introduce students to STEM career possibilities.

Visit the official Flying Classroom website to enlighten and inspire!

Through Flying Classroom, students accompany Irving on his expeditions and explore real-life applications of academic content in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the humanities.

On Monday, November 16, 2020, Irving delivered 350 Flying Classroom STEM kits for participating students during a fly-in event at the Richmond Jet Center.

The partners of this event included Captain Barrington Irving, Flying Classroom; Jason Kamras, Superintendent, Richmond Public Schools; Beth Teigen, Deputy Superintendent, Henrico County Public Schools; Mike Taylor, CEO, Henrico Education Foundation; Jeanine Turner, Program Director, NextUp RVA; David Eshelman, Director of Career and Technical Education, VDOE; and Randall Johnson, Title II/IV Specialist, VDOE

The fly-in was conducted in compliance with CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidelines for physical distancing and COVID-19 prevention.

“I want to thank Captain Irving and Flying Classroom for partnering with VDOE to provide these exciting learning opportunities for students in 21st Century Community Learning Centers,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “Flying Classroom will open windows to the world and introduce students to the unlimited possibilities that await in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And I know students will be inspired by Captain Irving’s many accomplishments and his amazing life story.”

The STEM kits allow students at eight 21st Century Community Learning Centers at schools in Richmond and Henrico County to participate in virtual expeditions, adventures and challenges based on Irving’s career and accomplishments, including catching snakes in the Amazon, exploring glaciers and HALO (high-altitude, low-opening) parachute jumping. The kits also include at-home activities for students aligned with Virginia’s academic standards.

In the spring, students at after-school learning centers  in Richmond, and  Henrico County will be challenged to construct a Dodge Daytona STEM vehicle designed by Factory Five Racing Inc. The goal of the Flying Classroom Automotive Car Build program is to improve student attendance and engagement, and introduce students to careers in the automotive industry.

At the conclusion of the car-build project, Flying Classroom’s 18-wheel Mobile Auto Lab will visit all of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the commonwealth.

VDOE is supporting the initiative with $250,000 in funding from the commonwealth’s 21st Century Learning Centers federal grant. Other partners include Virginia Commonwealth University, the Wendell Scott Foundation, Richmond Raceway, Henrico County Public Schools, the Henrico Education Foundation, NextUp RVA and Richmond Public Schools.


The federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers program supports the creation of opportunities for academic enrichment during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and mathematics; offers students enrichment activities that complement regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Every  school district- just ought to ramp up their offerings for learners and their families and provide real-life relevant instruction, hands-on learning experiences, and deliver inspiration, increased life and career options and ‘mirrors’ to communities who see life and themselves through too many windows.

We, as parents and educators, spend more than enough  time placing windows in front of children, amidst an underlying assumption that children will which is particularly impactful to children of color. Impacting their self-image, self-esteem, and limiting the natural inclination to dream without boundaries, the absence of the introduction of brilliant achievers who look like them works to perpetuate the ‘status quo’. ALL children need exposure to black and brown excellence…as a naturally-occurring example of equity, possibilities, and less rigid views on race and ethnicity.

Event such as these are not, no, should not be, rare opportunities to turn the world, as taught, upside down. It is actually right side up. When deliberate, intentional, carefully planned, and collaborative, lower income community schools and educators can teach to a fully engaged audience. I am deeply moved and encouraged by the state of Virginia’s walking the talk  in the desire for excellence through equity.

This year, reaching a few hundred learners, can be next year’s few thousand, and so forth. Promoting STEM and careers tied to these areas of learning, and in such ways as offered by Flying Classroom, sparks new interests, hones skills and broadens worldviews. We now stand in the doorway of real change in the learning landscape and since education is closely tied to income and earning potential, we must expand our adult creative capacity.

From the protests of late, screams for social justice in all forms, children must no longer be pigeon-holed into narrowly defined boxes. If we don’t dream big for our children, all of them, we are wrong to expect that they will sit in a classroom and dream big for themselves-not without exposure, involvement and relevant figures to show, not just tell them.  So proud am I that the South is rising towards righting generations of wrongs, and is demonstrating  in education that representation is key. This is STEM at its best!

Developing Young Artists for Life-Long Success


My youngest daughter knew from the age of 5 that art was her destiny. Her first commissioned work[unpaid, of course] was at age 5.  As a kindergartener, she designed the cover photo for the program brochure used for her graduation ceremony. She wasn’t even in 1st grade yet!

After years of drawing while in school, after school, at home, all of her free time was concentrated heavily on art. As a 10th grader, she had already created her 1st based serial comic strip, ‘Café au Lait’ in 4 Panels. Upon my own recognition of her incredible talent and this original idea, I requested a U.S. Copyright protection, and it was granted.

All of this happened before she had begun college. A well-presented entrance portfolio earned her admittance into quite a few prestigious schools with excellent undergraduate visual arts programs. She eventually decided on NYC’s  School of Visual Arts, and from this institution, founded by  Rhodes, she earned a B.F.A. in Cartooning and Illustration.

Art can definitely pave the way for future success as much as Science, Engineering or Math. Our public schools, for a long time, had negated the importance of fostering the artistic and creative expression of students. All of a sudden, art programs were being eliminated from school curricula.

Thankfully, it is now recognized that any field or career area has challenges to enter or succeed, and art, music and other ‘non-essential’ subjects are returning so that STEM can become STEAM in 21st Century education.

Children who demonstrate interest, possess talent, sheer determination, and adequate encouragement, can discover that anything is possible for their future. We must stop limiting their innate need for individuality and creativity.

Nurture the whole child, and educate likewise. Give them opportunities to explore a range of areas to identify interest, aptitude and settle upon their the dreams that will enable them to realize their potential. Here’s another success story from



via Developing Young Artists Can Lead to Life-Long Successes | Blog.

Grant Opportunities: Hispanic-Serving Institutions


The Hispanic-Serving Institutions-Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) and Articulation Grant Competition is accepting applications through May 3, 2016!

Purpose of Program: The purpose of the grant is to: (1) increase the number of Hispanic and other low-income students attaining degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; and (2) to develop model transfer and articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions in such fields.

Funds may be used for:

  • Improving academic quality of STEM programs through curriculum revision and development, or faculty development;
  • Developing research opportunities for students in STEM fields;
  • Providing or improving student services including counseling, tutoring, mentoring or establishing learning communities;
  • Encouraging secondary students to pursue STEM degrees and careers through outreach activities; and
  • Improving STEM facilities and equipment needed for science instruction and computer laboratories.

Institutions that meet the definition of a Hispanic-Serving Institution may be eligible to apply for funding. For 2016 the U.S Department of Education and the HSI Division have reviewed IPEDS data to identify Institutions that meet the HSI definition.  A list of institutions meeting the HSI definition for 2016 will be posted on the program’s website. Visit the HSI-STEM webpage to learn more about this program and to apply.  

For a complete list of 2016 grant programs offered by the Office of Postsecondary Education please visit our Funding Opportunities Page and follow us on Twitter @EDpostsecondary

Additional Opportunities
OPE Seeks Peer Reviewers! Looking for professional development experience in 2016 or interested in learning more about the Department of Education’s OPE and its programs?  OPE seeks to create a pool of specialists to serve as “peer reviewers” to read and evaluate its grant competitions, including HSI-STEM’s.  Participation requires up to two weeks with modest compensation.  To learn more and/or apply please visit Peer Reviewers Information page on OPE’s website.


The Office of Postsecondary Education works to promote reform, innovation and improvement in postsecondary education, promote and expand access to postsecondary education and increase college completion rates for America’s students, and broaden global competencies that drive the economic success and competitiveness of our Nation.

To learn more about our divisions, grant programs and policy development visit our website and follow us at Twitter @EDpostsecondary.

Supporting Our Youngest Innovators: STEM starts early! | Blog

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