During the Fly_ND Conference in March, I had conversations with a few attendees interested in bringing a high school aviation program to their community. How we can make that happen looks different in each community, but there are opportunities. Hopefully, you had a chance to attend the session at the conference on this topic; I will briefly summarize some of the opportunities available. It is important to note that all communities are unique and rarely will the process look the same in two communities.
First, no matter how big or small your community is, there are currently opportunities for students in your area to enroll in high school aviation programs. The North Dakota Center for Distance Education offers online aviation courses, which are available to every student in the state. In addition, the Central Regional Area Career and Technical Center (CRACTC) offers distance education. The CRACTC’s program offers more instructor interaction and opportunities for field trips. This program is not asynchronous, so students do need to enroll during an enrollment period.
Looking beyond a distance education option, if a school is able to bring enough students together to offer a class, there are opportunities for in-person aviation instruction. Though there are other options, one free curriculum seeing a lot of traction nationally is provided by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA.) This curriculum is designed to be taught by a teacher, who may not have an aviation background, but is excited about aerospace. AOPA has put a lot of time and money into developing this curriculum and I have heard many positive stories about its use.
Finally, the other options: likely the best student experience, but most difficult to establish, is a full Career and Technical Education (CTE) program teaching aviation. This requires some dedicated resources, such as qualified staff and classroom space. There are also some other options for instruction, such as integrating the curriculum into other classes. For instance, an agriculture class may want to teach unmanned aircraft as a part of their precision agriculture curriculum, or an engineering class may teach aeronautics or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) as a part of their curriculum. There are many resources out there for elementary classes as well. EAA recently released the Aeroeducate Program, specifically for K-8 classrooms.
Regardless of the best fit for your community, I am encouraging any teacher, counselor, administrator, or school board member to consider attending the professional development opportunities available this summer. These seminars will be offered:
June 6-7, 2022, in Grand Forks, ND
June 8-9 in Fargo, ND
In the weeks following these seminars, there will be a variety of cities throughout the state concentrating on UAS and drone racing. For more information, contact me and I can provide all of the details about the events and how to register. I look forward to having many more aviation opportunities for our students in the coming years.
Mike McHugh, Aviation Education Coordinator
North Dakota Aeronautics Commission
701-328-9650 | email@example.com