By Terry Stephens
Gary Evans, a science teacher at Centennial Middle School in Snohomish, Wash., was so inspired by his first flight with a friend many years ago that he learned to fly and earned his own private license. Then, eight years ago, he decided to share his enthusiasm with his colleagues by teaching them about aviation in summer courses at nearby Paine Field (PAE).
But he wasn’t thinking just about opening their eyes to the thrill of flying. His real goal was getting them to share their excitement and knowledge with their young students.
“I started teaching my Science of Flight classes for other educators in 2000,” said Evans. “Teachers not only get summer education credits for the course, but they also have an experience most of them have never even thought about before.”
A classroom teacher for 35 years and an adjunct faculty member of Seattle Pacific University, Evans holds a master’s in science education and teaches chemistry, physics and environmental studies for seventh and eighth graders. Four days of Science of Flight classes are offered twice each summer, once in July and again in August. Teachers who sign up are primarily from the Seattle and Puget Sound region, although for this year’s course, one teacher flew in from Germany, and two others came from California.
In addition to introducing educators to the scientific principles of flight and showing them how to navigate with aviation charts, the class provides instruction on how to effectively present that information to their students. As part of their coursework, teachers are required to create aviation lesson plans for their classrooms.
Each class also meets with aviation professionals to discuss their careers. Speakers include aircraft mechanics, a search and rescue crew, airline pilots and dispatchers and Federal Aviation Administration control tower personnel. The teachers also meet with Dave Waggoner, Paine Field director, and Stan Allison of the Washington Department of Transportation’s aviation division.
“That gives the teachers good information for raising student awareness of modern aviation career opportunities,” Evans explained. “Women and minorities in aviation jobs will also share their insights with the instructors about attractive options for students.”
Highlights of the three-credit, $265 course include classroom experiments and demonstrations of flying principles, two hours of flight instruction in a Cessna 172 and rides in a variety of aircraft. Field trips are an important part of the coursework, including a tour of the Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 assembly plant in Everett and the Museum of Flight and Challenger Learning Center at Boeing Field in Seattle. Paine Field tours include the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour facility, the control tower, aircraft maintenance facilities and the Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center.
This year’s courses are scheduled for July 16-19 and August 6-9. Teachers should attend all sessions and field trips, complete homework material and participate in sharing ideas through class discussions, demonstrations and activities.
“Each teacher will reach hundreds of students through the classroom,” Evans said. “So far, I figure the program has educated 110 teachers, who have brought the science of flight to about 7,000 young people. I don’t know of another program like it in the country.”
When he started the program, he wanted to reveal the world of aviation to both teachers and students, expecting they would benefit by simply having a better understanding of the importance of aviation in their communities and in the local and national economy.
“But the information that is passed on in the classroom also shows that flying could be a personal option for the students, just as it could be for the teachers,” Evans explained. “Even more important, students learn that aviation has a wide range of career choices that they might never have considered.”
Evans hopes that other teachers across the country might become interested in launching their own programs. If they do, he hopes they can find the kind of support he found in Paine Field’s airport director.
“Without Dave Waggoner, this would be a completely different program,” Evans said. “He’s been one of our greatest supporters. He’s helped me tremendously in putting the classes together and arranging a roster of field trips.”
Paine Field has become a sponsor of the program and helps buy flight time with airport flying schools. Waggoner is excited about the prospects for young students.
“We have two significant education programs at the airport that serve kids,” Waggoner said. “One is the Science of Flight, which trains teachers and encourages them to pass their knowledge on to their students. The other is the airport’s Aviation Academy, which teaches kids things like navigation, the forces of flight and how engines work. Then the kids wind up at General Aviation Day each year and get to go flying.”
For more information, visit [http://www.painefield.com] and click on Science of Flight for Teachers.