Dedicated to responsible public education and the conservation of endangered and rare animals, the staffers of the Florida International Teaching Zoo tend to a diverse collection of living beings while teaching students to do the same. Amid the rustling feathers of Lady Amherst pheasants and the uncontrollable laughter of spotted hyenas reading the works of Oscar Wilde aloud, the school’s pupils spend days practicing their cage-side manner and stockpiling wildlife know-how through classes and conservation projects around the globe. To round out their tuition, students helm zoo tours for visitors four days a week, practicing their newly minted public-management skills and granting guests a chance to take in the wonders of the natural world in an intimate setting.
For more than four decades, Sunair Aviation has been training safe and technically proficient pilots as a professional flight training school stationed at Leesburg International Airport. An FAA-approved Part 61 program, the school recently acquired Part 141 certification as well, allowing it to train private pilots with its fleet of Cessna, Beechcraft, and Piper airplanes. Thanks to the collective experience of certified flight instructors and IFR-approved Garmin 430 avionic systems aboard each plane, the school boasts a safety record unblemished by so much as a wing paper cut.
In addition to offering students real flying experience, the outfit invites students to log flying hours inside its full motion Redbird FMX Simulator. Stationed safely on the ground, the apparatus surrounds pilots with wrap-around visuals and real avionic equipment. As the simulator rolls, pitches, and yaws, students encounter valuable practice with real piloting situations, but without the common flying hassles of long waits on the runway or floating toll booths.
Vllage Flyers’s fleet of aviators soars across cloud banks in an X-Air Light Sport plane at 90 mph, whipping past lakes and forests thousands of feet below. A nonprofit flying club, Village Flyers aims to make the thrill of flight more accessible to the Orlando community, both by granting its members access to the 3-year-old X-Air and by welcoming beginner flyers into their ranks. Boasting at least 35 years’ teaching experience each, the club’s FAA--certified instructors also prepare pilots for their sport-pilot license, a program that includes air time and ground school. Each instructor takes a casual approach to defying gravity, inviting students to learn at their own pace by deciding how often they fly and whether they want to learn to skywrite in calligraphy or shorthand.
When discussing his teaching philosophy with reporters from Central Florida Lifestyle, the owner of Salsa Heat quipped, "if you can walk, you can dance." He himself didn't know much about dancing when he took his first salsa class in the early 90's, but he caught on after just a few sessions, falling in love with the dance's energetic spins and rhythmic movements.
Today, a team of professional dance instructors teach salsa spins and footwork to students of all experience levels. Zumba and bachata classes provide tutoring in other Latin dance styles, and salsa classes for kids teach youngsters dance fundamentals that hone coordination and motor skills. Throughout the year, the staff hosts special events on their spacious dance floors, such as salsa socials, salsa Christmas parties, and salsa-infused celebrations of Robert Heinlein's birthday.
Flying in one of Quest Air Soaring Center's hang gliders is like transforming into a giant bird. The cockpit, floor, and engine of a traditional aircraft are all stripped away, leaving nothing but unparalleled views of Lake County. In good weather, visibility stretches to both of Florida's coasts and reveals everything in between: Disney, Universal Studios theme park, and even Cape Canaveral. Quest's certified hang-gliding instructors teach new fliers to navigate this elevated terrain during tandem discovery flights that introduce basic concepts such as turning and accelerating. As students progress, they move on to solo flights and more advanced skills, such as navigating thermals and rescuing pedestrians from the tops of broken ferris wheels.
Leading these aerial excursions are Quest Air Soaring Center's experienced hang-gliding pilots and instructors. When not soaring through the air, they spend time on their company's private lake, where gear for fishing, paddle boating, and other aquatic activities are available to Quest Air's customers free of charge.
Unlike planes, gliders don’t need engines to soar the skies. Instead, they are fueled by wind, climbing up drafts or descending on the breeze at 100–200 feet per minute, making dive-bombing wasps everywhere feel about themselves. For the last 30 years, Seminole-Lake Gliderport’s FAA-certified pilots have specialized in these windborne flights, helming a fleet of glider models such as the Super Blanik L-23 and the Schweizer 1-34. They also teach passengers piloting basics with hands-on discovery flights. Once they’ve mastered riding the winds, glider pilots 55 and older can showcase their skills at the airfield’s Annual Senior Soaring Contest.