Aviation and Space Education: A Key Unlocking the Future
Traditionally the FAA's national and regional Aviation Education Directors led many of the efforts to foster aviation education programs. FAA also funded a wide variety of aviation education materials and such important activities as aviation education camps.
Support for aviation education has also been strong from major national aviation and educational organizations, such as AOPA, NBAA, GAMA, NATA, NASA, EAA, UAA, CAP, NAA, and many others, coordinating their contributions through the National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE), described below more fully. Originally several major groups played the central role in this league, especially by organizing the annual National Congress for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE) conference.
However, in the last ten years because of federal budget cuts agencies such as FAA, NASA, and CAP have been under increasing financial pressure. For instance the FAA had to drop from its budget much of its funding for published materials, the Aviation Career Enhancement camps, and even reasonable travel expenses for the aviation education coordinators.
Fortunately, a supportive positive trend has begun with a change in focus by several of the FAA's regional aviation education directors. For example, the New England Region's director, with support from two succeeding FAA Regional Administrators, stimulated the formation of state aviation and space education councils in several states. State councils have also been formed in a number of other areas of the country, too, with New Jersey having one of the pioneering state programs.
As with the airport advocacy groups, these efforts depend on many volunteers who are working with minimum resources. Many opportunities exist to bring the many individuals and groups involved into closer contact and more coordinated efforts.
The Wolf Aviation Fund will entertain, foster, and promote projects helping these groups through increased participation in electronic communications, support for regional conferences for participants and teachers, development of curricula and resource guides for teachers working in these areas, and sessions bringing different disciplines together permitting collaboration across study disciplines.
Again, there are many resources available now which we believe could support such efforts. As discussed in the Networking Program, science and aviation museums could be better utilized as focal points for both aviation education program activities and for telling the story of general aviation to the public. Other venues often unexplored are major public events such as air shows, and major aviation facilities such as air carrier airports in the big cities. Often these facilities could be encouraged to become more friendly for educators with a surprisingly small amount of effort.
For example, in Massachusetts the Massachusetts Aviation and Space Educational Council achieved great success by collaborating with MASSPORT and numerous industry groups in organizing an Aviation Education Career Expo at Logan International Airport. For thousands of Boston city children this was their first exposure to the world of aviation and space technology and careers.
Perhaps with some thought aviation advocates could support such efforts and also discover other ways to replace for city children the experience of gazing over the fence of small airports that brought so many of us into contact with aviation.
An example lies in the work of the National Park Service at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York. Working with them the New York Aviation and Aerospace Education Council encouraged workshops in aviation history, and worked with FAA helped build two aviation career resource centers in nearby high schools. We all hope to see special aviation education programs for inner-city youth flourish at Floyd Bennet Field and other sites rich with aviation heritage.
In fact, a special objective that the new state aviation and space education councils has found especially rewarding is that of opening up new worlds of opportunity for neglected minorities and for women. These groups especially find themselves often discouraged from developing their capabilities in math and the sciences. Through programs such as Cloud Chasers and Opportunity Skyways, and through events such as the urban and gender equity ACE Camps conducted by the state councils, young minority children and girls have found aviation to provide an inspiring gateway to their own newly discovered talents.
Truly, the future lies in the hearts and minds of our children. In addition to improving the understanding of their parents, we should seriously consider what a profound influence could be exerted by our educational institutions. The Wolf Foundation will investigate ways to help educators better understand what a powerful tool general aviation can be in exciting and stimulating young people to expand both their physiacl and intellectual horizons.\
We strongly encourage those interested in aviation education to explore the groups listed by the National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education on it site www.aviationeducation.org, and also to read through the other information on the site. Its NCASE GUIDE provides a list of more than fifty associations, agencies, and industry groups who have educational information and resources such as curricula, videos, training materials, and other products which can be of great use to educators and their students! Visit it now:
National Coalition for Aviation And Space Education
(Related: lists of groups involved in aviation education, museums, and other groups may be found in the Resources pages, both on this site and by following the links we provide to related sites)