A love of flying starts early. That’s why Baylor’s Institute for Air Science wants to reach out to young students to spark an interest in flying and the science behind aviation.
While the department hosts numerous recruiting events to draw collegians to its bachelor’s degree programs in Aviation Sciences and Aviation Administration, faculty and staff wanted to also host community events and offer educational materials for students as young as elementary age.
Kelley Oliver, the Project Coordinator and Office Manager for the Institute, said that to do that effectively, they needed expertise. So they reached across campus to the School of Education — specifically Associate Dean and Associate Professor Dr. Suzanne Nesmith, a science educator for elementary grades, and Dr. Sandi Cooper, Professor and Coordinator of the Mathematics Education program and mathematics educator for elementary grades.
The pair was teaching a graduate course called STEM Teaching and Learning with Young Children. STEM curricula focus on the idea that students should be taught four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an applied approach. The class focused on building students’ understanding of how to develop and utilize STEM curriculum for young students in creative yet effective ways.
The class of five graduate students developed an extensive, 36-page booklet full of information and activities on the science and mathematics behind aviation. They created science experiments students can do at home or in the classroom; a mathematics chart for calculating weight on different planets; information on careers in aerospace; two aerospace sticker activity sets; and activities that teach about flight instruments, history of aeronautics, famous aviators, airplane parts, flight instruments and more.
“We divided it up to make it more interactive, and all of the activities were based on Texas standards so they could potentially be used as part of a larger curriculum,” said Hannah Turney, BSEd ’15, MSEd ’17, a student in the class.
Cooper and Nesmith determined the topics and organization of the booklet, made edits to the written activities, and authored the forward. Bringing the topics to life was a project that the class did together, with different students taking on specific topics and activity pages.
Kylie Terry, BSEd ’15, MSEd ’17, another student in the class, said that the collaboration was an unexpected surprise and that she enjoyed working with publishers and with colleagues across campus.
The booklet that the STEM for Young Learners class created was just what the Institute had imagined.
“We get quite a bit of traffic at our air show booths from young people, and the only inexpensive activity we had available for them for years involved building and coloring balsa wood gliders,” Oliver said. Tired of the simple gliders, Oliver envisioned a booklet that would inspire.
“We wanted a booklet that featured activities that would teach and excite young people about aviation,” she said. “Now we are able to not only use it for air shows, but for outreach at local elementary schools,” Oliver said.
This past spring, a shipment of the books went to an elementary school in San Antonio for students to have in the classroom. More recently, a shipment was delivered to Live Oak Classical School in Waco as STEM-approved state-curriculum.
—Story and photos by Olivia Berry
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ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.