Six representatives from the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC) visited Adair County High School Tuesday for a discussion and classroom observation of the school’s innovative second year program, the Air and Space Academy. Led by science teachers Matthew and Keri Willis, the academy teaches students principles of flight, engineering, aeronautics, and allows for hands-on learning opportunities like building planes and flying on a computer flight simulator.
“This is a great opportunity to promote the Air and Space Academy and the project-based learning that’s embedded in the program,” says ACHS College and Career Readiness Counselor Robin Loy. “We are happy to be able to share our work throughout the region and welcome any school districts to come see the exciting work we’re doing.”
The visiting group included Karen Barron, GRREC program manager; Karen Nunn, leadership mentor; Darrell Doerhoff, college and career advisor and aviation teacher at Monroe County High School; Eric Self, science teacher at Caverna High School; Diane Embry, cognitive coach; and Patrick Riley, cognitive coach. The assembly watched intently and asked students plenty of questions Tuesday as the class went about its work. First year students worked on wing designs for an upcoming contest in Frankfort, while second year students practiced S-turns on flight simulators.
Doerhoff, who teaches a similar class at Monroe County High School, was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and engagement. “This is how the class is supposed to be; you turn them loose and let them work it out on their own,” Doerhoff says. “The skills these students are picking up will carry them all through life, even if they don’t go into aviation.”
The Air and Space Academy utilizes a diverse curriculum to expose students to a broad range of concepts. The program uses materials from the National Air and Space Education Institute (NASEI) for some lessons, but mostly takes a learning-by-doing approach. First year students build a model plane (out of foam) throughout the year and fly at the end of the second semester, and second year students use the engineering skills they’ve learned to make modifications and build a more intricate plane the next year.
“We haven’t been doing it very long, but we’ve grown a lot since we started,” Matthew Willis says of the program. “We’re learning more every day, and students are learning how to be engineers – how to build their own planes.”
There are currently 21 students in the Air and Space Academy, and Loy expects an additional 10-12 freshmen to join the program next year. “It’s still growing,” Loy says. “It’s a unique opportunity for our students and we expect more to take advantage of it.”
By Wes Feese
Media Relations, Adair County Schools