Siebert Elementary School students in third through fifth grades joined in several aviation and space-related STEM activities Friday night at Jack Barstow Municipal Airport in Midland.
The event, called Siebert Flight Night, was organized in conjunction with the Chief Science Officer program through Saginaw Valley State University.
Ava Nelson, one of two CSOs selected at Jefferson Middle School, coordinated the event.
At Siebert Flight Night, students could climb into a permanent airplane display or watch several lighter planes take off and land from the Discovery Area at the airport.
Students also visited stations that taught them about planets, constellations and clouds.
Using gumdrops, they learned about atmospheric molecules. They were also introduced to forces involved with flying, and they could take home a piece of paper, with holes poked into it, that would allow for constellations to be projected onto a wall.
Nelson, an eighth-grader, worked with Helena McDonald of Sanford and Sarah Pagano of Saginaw to plan and organize the various activity stations.
Pagano teaches aviation camps at Barstow and McDonald is an administrative mentee at Siebert. Aside from walking with Nelson through this process, McDonald also served as a communication liaison with parents, teachers and the community about the event.
Nelson recruited some of her eighth-grade peers to assist at the activity stations and to dress as historical figures. T.J. Neuenfeldt shared some history as Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier and Kefir Klee as Leonardo Da Vinci.
Avery Johnson, a third-grader at Siebert, attended the event with her mother, Robin Johnson. One of Avery’s stops was one station that Nelson created, where a bracelet made with colored beads helped students to learn the order of the planets.
“It was fun,” Avery said.
Her mother, Robin, called Flight Night “an excellent opportunity to see some STEM learning, hands-on.”
Achyutan Kumar, also in third grade at Siebert, attended with his father Amar Kumar.
Achyutan enjoyed watching and learning, especially “when the plane took off and came down. And the radio communication, they told us stuff about how they communicate to each other.”
Amar enjoyed what his son was learning as well.
“This was great, he had the opportunity to go and sit inside the plane and learn about radio communication,” he said.
Jim Cordes, president of the Midland Aviation Education Association, was also pleased with the event and the pilots, who were completely on board from the start.
“I’m terribly excited. This fulfills our vision,” he said.
After Dot Hornsby, a local pilot and member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, reached out about the idea — hoping a space like this could help young people learn more about aviation — Cordes was instrumental in helping the Midland Community Aviation Discovery Area to become a reality.
“It’s a place where the public can come out — where families can come out — and view airplanes,” he said.
The fenced-in space at Barstow allows children to explore and observe airplanes. It is also welcoming for teachers, with a pavilion area, tables and a speaker system.
Hornsby also established the local Aviation Education Center. The Discovery Area was dedicated in 2016.
Meanwhile, Jefferson Middle School CSO Ava Nelson aspires to attend Princeton University. She has interests in astrophysics, studying how the universe started and perhaps working at NASA in the future.
“It’s fascinating; I love it,” she said.
She was excited to make learning about aviation and astrophysics practical.
Penny Miller-Nelson, coordinator of secondary instruction at Midland Public Schools, explained that the CSO program provides leadership roles for students who promote STEM learning.
Mary McLaughlin of Sanford, an eighth-grade student, is also a CSO at Jefferson Middle School. She planned Teen Science Café events. One event involved Nexteer coming to the school to discuss the technology behind autonomous vehicles.
The event on Friday night at Barstow also involved several people and organizations.
“Siebert Flight Night has really become a collaboration among Ava as the CSO, Helena McDonald as the administrative mentee at Siebert, the Midland Aviation Education Association, others affiliated with Barstow airport,” Miller-Nelson said. “This is a great example of a school and community partnership.”
Pagano was happy to help.
“It was such a pleasure to work with MPS and get to know Ava. She is so intelligent and enthusiastic and I hope that she is proud of her accomplishment tonight,” Pagano said.
Nelson will not soon forget her experiences as CSO.
“I loved learning about businesses and organizations I didn’t know existed,” she said. “I worked with younger kids, older kids, so many amazing people. It was a great learning experience.”