With “Straw Rockets” flying overhead and “solar sails” racing down a fishing line track, local teachers participated in the D.W. Steele Chapter’s AFA Teacher of the Year STEM Showcase at AFA National Headquarters in March.
Conceived by Melissa Pore, the 2022 D.W. Steele Chapter and Virginia State AFA Teacher of the Year, and Beth Favors (2023 D.W. Steele Chapter Teacher of the Year), the program brought together K-12 teachers from the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas to learn about resources available to help excite students about science with lessons on aviation, space, and cyber. Pore and AFA 2021 National Teacher of the Year Megan Tucker showcased ideas and demonstrated the range of learning opportunities possible.
The Steele Chapter partnered with the U.S. Department of Education’s “YOU Belong in STEM” initiative to bring about the workshop program. It included immersive hands-on activities, with teachers learning from each other, discussing outcomes, and providing new perspectives and pathways in STEM.
Sessions were tailored for K-5 and middle to high school (6-12). AFA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, USAF (Ret.) opened the event with a keynote on the importance of passionate teachers inspiring our nation’s youth. Presenters highlighted AFA resources such as CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers, as well as other institutions including Civil Air Patrol (CAP), NASA, Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN), the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISSNL), Space Station Explorers Program and Ambassador Opportunity, the U.S. Naval Academy STEM Program, Limitless Space Institute (LSI), and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Educators learned how to locate digital resources, access free materials, and arrange for a free TOP Flight right over their school.
Pore praised the workshop. “After 27 years of teaching, I know what I need to fuel my students and ignite their curiosity, they must see experience and passion in me as I highlight STEM pathways. Through innovative training opportunities and unique events, we can learn new skills and bring the most emerging technologies directly to the classroom. As a new Teacher of the Year, I found a new purpose and urgency for supporting my colleagues as they navigate a new and difficult education landscape to include STEM in every classroom and for every student by first empowering each other.”
Tucker agreed. “The STEM Showcase was a great example of breaking down silos and building collaboration between districts, schools, subjects, grade levels and fellow colleagues,” she said. “Promoting passionate perseverance is key for educators and students alike, and using resources like AFA and Civil Air Patrol really help to create that aviation fascination.”
Steele Chapter Vice President for Aerospace Education Mike Maxwell said the workshop model was effective, “scalable and tailorable,” and that the program could be replicated easily by other chapters. To find out more, contact a Steele Chapter leader.