Coordinator Kate Watson integrates classrooms into cockpits
University Avenue Aerospace students apply STEM Education at Anoka Airport
"Kids love airplanes and astronauts and dinosaurs," said Kate Watson, Curriculum Integration Coordinator at University Avenue Aerospace Children's Engineering and Science, Anoka Hennepin School District. "Being an aerospace school, we get the airplanes and the astronauts."
Watson manages the Science Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Aerospace program for the magnet school of 600 students.
In her coordination activities, she has teamed the school up with a wide variety of entities and individuals for the provision of opportunities for students to have hands-on learning, in and outside the classroom. The result is learning that is more interactive, and more applicable to real life scenarios. Sometimes the result is receiving cool T-shirts for students and staff, like the ones from the Civil Air Patrol and the Air Force Association.
Visitors to the University Avenue Elementary School have included hot air balloon experts, the smallest jet, Astronaut Abby, world renown stunt pilot John Klatt from the Air National Guard, and a group that flies RC/AC airplanes. They also have three 3 designated special ACES Days in which the school engages in programming.
"The kids love it!" said Watson. "We are always looking for special guests to make our student's learning come alive, and to give them that kick-off, hands-on inquiry based experience to start their learning and spark their questions. I'd love to expand our network of those interested in our program and our mission."
In 2011 the school formed a working relationship with the Blaine Airport Promotions Group (BAPG). BAPG is a public non-profit organization that networks with businesses at the Anoka County Blaine Airport. The upshot of this relationship is that students from Kindergarten on up are given the opportunity to visit the airport, sit in an aircraft, observe a repair shop, witness the workings of a control tower, tour an aircraft museum, and join in other aviation related activities.
"We are quite fortunate that the airport is near by, and a very open and willing partner," said Watson. "This arrangement has been mutually supportive to both groups. It gives the airport recognition in their community of what they are doing in educational outreach. There is so much they can share with that facility!
"From the school's perspective, our partnership with them is integral in all our work, especially as we start the spiral up with aviation in Kindergarten. Our Kindergartners go out and have a picnic at the airport to provide background knowledge of airplanes and airports. First grade looks at community helpers. They look at jobs at the airport as well as different types of aircraft. Second grade really specializes in flight, so that's when we visit the Golden Wings Museum where they learn more of the history of flight.
"Bringing students to the airport and the businesses there is the perfect example of community resources and integration and engagement for our youth. We know that as our students are more engaged in what they are doing, they take ownership of that topic. They will do better in school, or they will be more apt to want to come to school every day and to want to learn, and want to think outside that box, and get ready for those Twenty-first Century skills that they know they need."
Watson received the Coordinator of the Year Award in 2014 from the National Civil Air Patrol. In addition, a stipend was given to fund scholarships for University Avenue Students to join the Civil Air Patrol in the future.
The Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC) bestowed recognition upon University Avenue School for its support and promotion of the Anoka County Blaine Airport. Subsequently, MAC board members visited the school.
When Kate Watson is commended by the entities with which she works, she is quick to point out that teamwork is where the credit rightfully belongs.
"To win a coordinator of the year award, you need amazing people that you work with," said Watson. "You need people willing to look at things from outside the box; people who are willing to try new things, to take risks; but they also have a strong understanding of their curriculum and our standards and what kids need to know. These people know what best practices are, and how those best practices change and grow, just like we do."
For more information about STEM Aerospace, Children's Engineering & Science program, or to arrange a speaking engagement, or a presentation to students, contact Kate Watson via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org