PITTSTOWN – Kingwood Township School sixth-graders visited Alexandria Field Airport earlier this week for the first of three “Living Laboratories” for STEM education efforts.
Linda Castner, co-owner of the airfield, collaborated with Tanya Brooks, the middle school math and science teacher, to secure a Kingwood Township Education Foundation Grant for the program, entitled Aviation Math Unit. On Jan. 13 and 14, 22 students and two teachers played with a purpose, designing the FPG-9 Flyer, learning The Flyer’s control surfaces, and then testing various forms of flight and graphing their results.
This creative and innovative program supports many of the state’s educational STEM initiatives. It also will support the Next Generation Science Standards, which will be implemented in September. “Students will understand that science is both a body of knowledge and an evidence-based, model-building enterprise that continually extends, refines, and revises knowledge,” Brooks said.
According to the students, it was “fun learning.”
“Small airports like ours have been growing pilots since wide-eyed little boys sat on the fence to watch yellow tail-draggers take flight,” Castner said. “Even so, the aviation industry has a major problem; many people are not motivated to learn to fly.”
Between 1980 and December of 2007 the number of pilots in the U.S. decreased by 236,722. In 2007 there was a single drop in pilots of 7,000. Then for a second year in a row there were less than 600,000 (590,349) licensed pilots.
As with any industry, changing times requires being flexible in your business plan, Castner said. The Fritsche family built and has owned and operated Alexandria Field since 1944 — and many strategies keeping the airport a viable business have been implemented. The Living Laboratory concept is just one of the strategies being used today.
“We also do aviation summer camps, and run a free Aviation Education Science Club,” Castner said, “all of which continues to develop the next generation of pilots and engineers.”
Great things can happen when business and education work together. As one of the students, Corey Crawford, wrote in his lab comments, “I think the lab was very interesting. I think they did very good with keeping us awake and interested. I loved the lab and it was very fun. I can’t wait to come again! It was awesome!”
For more information on Alexandria Field, visit www.alexandriafield.com