A pillar of the Future of Flight Foundation’s mission has been and continues to be education. The audience is diverse, from toddlers and their parents to students (elementary through high school and college) and educators to our lifelong learner visitors from 185 countries. The Foundation pursues its education objectives with creative lessons for primary and secondary students, engaging hands-on activities for families, and informative, entertaining events and innovative offerings for the general public. Gallery exhibits are often used as part of the curricula’s storytelling, as a source of reflection, or as inspiration for curiosity. With the Boeing Tour being the anchor and the education program’s story being “How Planes are Made,” aviation innovation at the Future of Flight inspires young people to pursue studies and careers in fields critical to the advancement of the aerospace industry.
Elementary Through High School Student Programs
When the Future of Flight Foundation began its education program, it joined the state and national emphasis on interesting students in “STEM” subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math.
In 2006, the Foundation created an education strategy committee that included teachers and curriculum experts for the elementary-to-high school and higher education levels. Working with a consultant, in July 2007 the committee began creating the Flights of Innovation program focusing on middle school students. The program engages young people in problem solving and innovative thinking by immersing them in real-life challenges where they assume roles such as engineer, architect, sociologist, or public relations director and work in teams to create solutions to an aviation-related problem.
In 2008 the committee held focus group meetings, collaborated with local universities, and refined the curriculum. The committee decided to base the program on the “VESIL Model,” which combines major applied learning principles with a range of current education best practices. The name stands for:
Venue – bringing formally designed learning into a place other than the traditional classroom.
Experiential – learning designed around experiences that approximate real-life situations.
Scenario – the realistic situation and authentic work tasks, collaborations and activities that must be completed to successfully meet the expected learning outcomes.
Immersive Learning – the state of learning in which students assume fully detailed character roles and responsibilities, helping to complete the authentic setting.
Flights of Innovation was launched in 2009 with a pilot program that involved approximately 300 students and 10 teachers from four local middle schools: North Middle School, Everett School District; 10th Street School, Marysville School District; Voyager Middle School, Mukilteo School District; and Madrona K-8, Edmonds School District. The aviation problem was the climate change impact of rising sea levels that could flood airports in coastal areas. It used Bowerman Airfield in Hoquiam, Washington, as a real life example. After pre-program training of the teachers and in-depth student classroom work on the problem, the participants came to the Future of Flight Aviation Center to use its exhibits for further research. The students then presented their solutions in events at the Future of Flight. End-of-program analysis showed that students increased their aviation and career knowledge significantly, and teachers reported that their students were motivated and excited about participating in the program. The young people learned about possible careers, aviation, and climate change, as well as new approaches to problem solving. All the participating teachers enrolled their classes for the next round of Flights of Innovation.
In 2010 the Foundation received a nearly $50,000 grant from NASA to develop “Summer of Innovation,” an intensive STEM program for middle schools, and especially for girls, minorities, and low-income students. The Foundation implemented this two-week program in the summer of 2011 with the Mukilteo School District and the Snohomish County YMCA. The Foundation’s Flights of Innovation program also received support from donations of $30,000 from The Boeing Company, $10,000 from the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing, and $2,000 from Puget Sound Energy Foundation, as well as gifts from many individuals.
During the 2010-2011 school year 475 students participated in the Foundation’s education program. A year later the count was 530, and it grew to 630 students in the 2012-2013 school year.In 2013 the Foundation collaborated with the Mukilteo School District and The Boeing Company to provide a Micro STEM pilot program for all fifth graders in Mukilteo School District. It was also made available to several local middle and high schools. The program condensed the Flights of Innovation courses and included a tour of The Boeing Company plant at Paine Field.
In March and April 2014 the Foundation hosted Nano Days in Snohomish County schools, providing students with experience working with nanotechnology. In 2015 the Foundation received the Nano Exhibit from the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, which is now featured in the Gallery’s Family Zone.
In 2014, during the adoption of its current strategic plan, the Foundation added an “A” for “art” to the STEM initiative: “STEAM.” Art, in the broad creative design sense, is a critical skill needed in the aerospace field, as it bridges the engineering process with technology and math.
In the summer of 2014 the Foundation introduced its Aerospace Maker Program (AMP) – three weeks of after-school and weekend activities for students in grades 9 through 12 who are interested in aerospace manufacturing careers but do not necessarily plan to attend four-year colleges. Developed with the University of Washington (Bothell Campus) and with financial support from the National Science Foundation, this program provides hands-on learning about aircraft manufacturing, materials science and 3D printing technology (including creating their own products with the Future of Flight’s MakerBot® 3D printer), and it utilizes virtual digital achievement badges and journaling.
In September 2014 the Foundation held a Saturday “Back to School in 3-D” workshop for students in grades 5 through 12, where participants completed a 45-minute orientation and then produced their own designs on the Makerbot®.
In September 2014 the Foundation announced a reboot of its education programs for grades 3 through 12, offering a fee-for-service model combined with financial assistance. Each program now specifically covers one or more elements of STEAM emphasis, and several also focus on 21st century workplace skills and aviation career possibilities. Program descriptions identify the covered STEAM subjects, skills, and career elements so that teachers can align them with their own classrooms’ curricula. The new programs are:
Aerospace Maker Project (AMP) – A 30-hour program for grades 6-12 in which students create their own solutions to the question “How Are Planes Made?” using 3-D printing technology and new skills and knowledge about materials science and airplane manufacturing. (Made possible by grants from the University of Washington and The National Science Foundation.)
Boeing Career Tour – A 3-hour group program for grades 5-12, focusing on Technology and Engineering with a career-focused factory tour and activities. (Made possible in collaboration with The Boeing Company tour guide team.)
The Barry Smith Gliding Into Innovation program – Through designing and building gliders and a construction project, students in grades 5-12 learn about the engineering design method, the forces of flight, testing ideas, teamwork, and presentation skills. Foundation educators judge each team’s project on presentation, design, time aloft, and distance traveled. This year’s winners were included in the Future of Flight’s Summer 2015 Student Innovation Exhibit.
Xenoplanes – A 1.5-hour program for grades 3-12 where students learn about extraterrestrial environments while designing functional aircraft capable of flying in atmospheric conditions far different from Earth’s: for example, Venus and Mars.
In the summer of 2015 the Foundation held five five-day cAMP sessions for students entering grades 4 through 8. Based on the Foundation’s AMP 3-D printing program (Aerospace Maker Program), each session focused on a STEAM topic: science, technology, engineering, art, or math. A total of 78 young people attended the inaugural sessions. In addition to the educational elements, they enjoyed traditional summer camp activities such as playing capture the flag. One participant confided to a staff member that cAMP was better than similar programs he had attended in Seattle.
In 2015 the Foundation’s education program significantly increased the number of schools that benefitted from its programs. Participating schools included Tyee Educational Complex's Academy of Citizenship & Empowerment (Highline), Valley View Middle School (Snohomish), Issaquah High School (Issaquah), Centennial Middle School (Snohomish), Immaculate Conception & Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (Everett), James Monroe Elementary (Everett), West Hills STEM Academy (Bremerton), and Anacortes High School (Anacortes).
Also in the summer of 2015, in partnership with the Goodwill Youth Aerospace Program, the Future of Flight Foundation staff led a weekly course in the Gallery’s Makerspace. Students completed coursework in CAD modeling, 3-D printing, aircraft production, project management, engineering design, résumé writing, and STEAM career planning. They finished their summer of study with capstone presentations discussing the function and manufacture of modern aircraft, which were given to the public and an audience of aerospace professionals and Foundation staff.