Adopt A Pilot?

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Southwest Airlines is beginning the seventh year of its Adopt-A-Pilot program, in which fifth-grade students across the country get to follow the travels of one of 450 volunteer pilots who take them along for the ride in a variety of ways. Some communicate by e-mail or send postcards, giving clues and asking students to figure out where the messages originate. Others take digital pictures of a toy they take to various U.S. cities while some get their passengers involved by asking them to write notes to class members. Along the way, the kids learn about the math, science, writing and geography skills involved in air travel that can be applied to other areas of their lives. Each pilot takes a class for four weeks. They meet the kids personally in their schools and then take off for their far-flung destinations, including the kids in the whole process. The kids chart "their" pilot's travels in supplied curriculum materials and the pilot supplies daily flight statistics that the students compile. Each class can enter a national contest in which they script, direct and produce a three-minute video depicting the careers each student hopes to pursue. Southwest spokesman Greg Crum said teachers notice increased self-esteem and more awareness of career possibilities in students who have taken the program.