Special Education students connect aerospace and real life
One of the great things about Twitter is there are so many great ideas out there that you pick up information you can use and be inspired by that you would never think of yourself. Philip Capobianco (@CapoOttawa) from I presume Ottawa, Canada tweeted this story out about a teacher doing an awesome technology program with his special eductionstudents. You will be impressed with his results. Think Stand and Deliver meets Top Gun only with his lucky students.
At Oceanside’s Jefferson Middle School, special-needs teacher and aviation buff Mark Nicholson is showing his students the ropes on how to fly a battery-powered glider — and that’s not all.
Nicholson is using Civil Air Patrol lessons that teach everything from aerodynamics and windsock construction to airplane anatomy and algebra concepts on radius and distance. He connects the theories taught in books and on computers to a real life application.
Jefferson Middle School students prepare the remote control plane for a flight, LtoR: Julio Lara, Josh Ramirez, Karim Landeros, Benny Perry (in distance), and James Smith with remote control. — Charlie Neuman / UT San Diego
He hopes the program catches on with other teachers at the school, and that students might even get the chance to fly in a real plane if he garners enough support.
Some of Nicholson’s students have already said they want to become pilots one day.
“That’s what I want to be,” said seventh grader James Smith. “It’s better than playing a video game.” U.S. Air Force Maj. Thomas Scott, director of the Civil Air Patrol’s aerospace education California wing, said that Nicholson’s approach to teaching is unique in that he’s trying to incorporate the Patrol’s lesson plans at a school. The group’s approach is more typically found in after-school programs or clubs, Scott said.
“His way of integrating this into a special-needs program is something we’ve not seen before,” Scott said.
The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, and is tasked with search and rescue operations, aerospace education for youth, and cadet programs for teenagers.
The glider, instructional materials and software to simulate flying are part of a curriculum package provided by the Civil Aviation Patrol that the middle school purchased with a $720 grant from the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.
The package includes other educational elements as well, including lessons on rocketry and robotics, for instance. On the drawing board are plans to build and fire off rockets, perhaps from a field behind the middle school.
While the glider program for his special needs students began just a few months ago, Nicholson plans to roll out a larger aerospace education program that would include all 650 students in Jefferson’s 6-8 grades.
Aviation is more than a pastime for Nicholson, who said he has been flying single-engine planes for nearly 30 years and expects to earn his wings to become a flight instructor in a few months.
Jefferson Principal Marie Higareda de Ochoa said the aerospace education program addresses “common core standards” by connecting concepts taught in her school’s math department with flying the glider.
“The proverbial question asked by eighth graders is, ‘Why do I have to learn algebra if it’s never used?’ Well, they learn it and have a culminating activity with the model airplane.’”
At the moment, the program has been structured around only Nicholson’s 19 special needs students.
Every Monday, before 8 a.m., seventh graders like James Smith and Alvaro Sabino look forward to the lessons.
First, they huddle around a computer to test fly a simulated glider plane. It’s all guided with software and a joy stick, just like a video game. The joy stick moves the rudder and ailerons to give the glider movement to the left or right, or a rise or fall in elevation.