Experiential Learning on Field Trip to Intrepid Air & Space Museum

All fifty students of the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering went on a field trip to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City on October 20th. Field trips can be good or bad, depending on where you go, how it fits with the curriculum, and the timing. This field trip worked out superbly–the Intrepid offered an array of activities for learning, all of which fit perfectly with our curriculum, and we spent almost four hours there and got a full, in-depth experience.

Ms. Garavel and I planned the trip to make it a student-centered learning experience. Rather than hire a tour guide and have fifty students shuffling around  trying to hear someone talk, we gave the students the opportunity to set goals, and we gave them specific questions to research on the trip. Before the trip, we had the students read about the Intrepid so they knew roughly what to expect. On arrival, we put each 8th grade crew (group of about four students) with a 7th grade crew, making six groups with eight to ten students each. We put a chaperone with each of the six groups, then we gave each group a list of six stations around the Intrepid where each station required the students to answer one or more questions related to the exhibits at the station and related to their curriculum. Here is the list of questions at the stations: student-activities-at-stations-on-intrepid-air-space-museum.

We did a “shotgun” start where Crew One went to Station One, Crew Two to Station Two, etc., and the entire exercise took about three hours. After that, the students had about a half hour to look around at anything they wanted to see again and to buy souvenirs at the gift shop. Ms. Garavel, the other chaperones, and I all thought the plan worked out well. We had the students do a reflection activity the next day in class, and the feedback was universally positive. Here are some of the things students said about the trip:

“After going on the field trip yesterday, I think that I personally had a great experience on the Intrepid. I got to see all sorts of different aircraft from different time periods. It helped me realize how much aircraft from the past changed in such a short time compared to the aircraft that the military uses today. Another thing that I enjoyed doing was just walking around with my group and just experiencing the whole trip by looking around and reading the information that was everywhere. Also, I enjoyed learning more about the Intrepid and what missions it did and overall the ship’s story. My goal for this field trip was to learn more about the Vietnam War Era, and they had a whole exhibit on that subject so my goal was met. Overall I thought that this was by far the best field trip that we have gone on in the Academy and I hope to have more great experiences like that in the future.”

“The Intrepid was a good destination for our academy for many reasons. One reason why the Intrepid was a good destination for out academy is because everything there had to do with something that we are learning or what we are going to learn in the academy. For example, they had airplanes there with information about them, and we learned about airplanes, so when we went we applied our learning to the aircraft like identifying the parts of the airplane and what the parts do. To add on to that sentence it was nice that we actually understood what we were talking about with what the information said because I went when I was younger and didn’t understand anything but when we went yesterday I understood everything.”

“First of all, I really liked the field trip. It was amazing to see how big the Intrepid really was and how many planes it could carry. While on the trip, I learned what the daily life of a person on the ship was and how the planes stopped with such a short distance. Throughout the whole trip I was fascinated by the fact that the vessel I was standing on was active during one of our nation’s wars and that some very important people stood right where I was standing. I met my goal because when I went home to tell my parents about the trip they said that they would want to go maybe next summer or April break. I think the trip was made even better by the fact that we had flown a couple of the planes we saw in the simulator and then to see them in real life was fascinating.”

“The Intrepid was a good destination for the academy because it had many of the things we were learning about. It showed them in real life and allowed us to see things in real life that we had been learning researching, and talking about in the past few months. We actually got to see that planes we had been researching, and got to do hands on activities that pertained to things we actually knew about…I think it was a good field trip and I got to learn about everything I wanted to and a few other things that I didn’t know were there.”

“I think this was a very interesting and a fun place to go to. To see in person things used in war and to learn about them was awesome. The movie that was showed helped a lot in explaining the Intrepid’s experience in war, its importance to the war, and what the people serving our country did to protect it. I also liked going into the submarine even after the long wait in line to see how people had to live. The space part of the Intrepid was also an awesome thing to see. To see the size of it in person was a beautiful experience. I am very thankful for the sacrificing people who have used themselves to protect our country and have let us see the Intrepid today.”

“I think that the Intrepid was an absolutely amazing field trip for the academy! The main reason being that it was relevant, but a lot of things are, so why do I think that this in particular was amazing? Well, this was great because we actually got to see these aircraft in real life, some of the ones that we learned about, or did reports about, or even ones we made our models of! I learned so much!”

“Yesterday’s field trip to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum was a very cool and fun experience, showcasing the cool planes and even some members of the ship that fought in Vietnam. During our trip to the Intrepid, not only did I learn about what the ship was doing and all these cool facts about it but I also learned how much I actually knew about all these planes including naming what some of them were and more, surprising myself each time I knew what something was.”

“This was a great trip for the academy because you taught us everything that was related to all the stations we went to.”

“I think that the field trip that we took yesterday was the best one that we had. I really liked how we were split up so we got to go with a smaller group of people so it was easier to learn. I learned a lot yesterday, especially about ship life. First when we first walked to the ship the size of the ship really blew me away. The Intrepid was way bigger the I thought. One thing that I learned was on ships you are always doing something. What I mean is that if there is an emergency, everyone helps, every one is doing something to help.”

“The Intrepid was a good destination for the academy. Since we are learning about planes and forces that affect them, what better a place than a ship that carried planes and had special systems for takeoff. I learned a lot about planes and the ship itself. For each plane on the flight deck, there was an explanation of the planes flight controls and the kind of things it was used for. The most interesting thing i learned was how the planes took off from the flight deck.”

“I really enjoyed this field trip. I thought it was a great experience to see so many things about what we are learning at once. I thought that it was good to have the questions that you had us complete, because if we didn’t we probably would have been bored and wouldn’t have learned as much.”

“I really liked the field trip yesterday because of the way everything was organized and everything we got to see.”

“I really liked the field trip yesterday to the Intrepid, I thought that it was a really good experience. Not many people get to go on this trip because of the cost and mostly because of the travel…Overall this was a great field trip probably the best in the academy because we learned a lot and it was fun. You should continue to do this trip with the future classes.”

“I liked going to the field trip to the Intrepid. It was a good learning experience. I ended up meeting my goal about learning more about the aircraft carrier. What I did like was getting to do everything with the seventh graders. It was an interesting experience. Sometimes they would go ahead or they would stay behind but it was good showing them what to do and showing them the expectations on field trips.”

“Overall, I enjoyed this field trip very much, it was probably my all time favorite one. I learned about many different things as we went along different stations…I really liked the field trip, and I liked how it was organized.”

Here are some photos from the trip:




Experiential Learning By Providing Relevant STEM Experiences to Students

At the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, experiential learning is a big part of the curriculum. Experiential learning is based on giving students relevant experiences that help them understand and learn new concepts. It also requires we provide time for thoughtful reflection after these experiences. Typical learning experiences we do on a weekly basis are to use the flight simulators to experience what an aircraft actually does in flight, after we have studied a topic about flight in the classroom. Bringing in guest speakers who share their experiences in college STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs or in STEM careers is another form of experiential learning. Field trips, such as the one we are doing to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum this Thursday, are great experiential learning opportunities. The STEM competitions we do provides invaluable experiences. In all these cases, we reflect on what we learn, usually with a class discussion at a minimum, and often with a written reflection.

This past week, we had a couple instances of experiential learning. First, the eighth graders taught the seventh graders how to operate the tools and use the supplies in the makerspace safely and efficiently. This was a good review for the eighth graders, and it was a very relevant experience for the seventh graders since they are now using the makerspace to do a Rube Goldberg project demonstrating a sequence of simple machines. Another experience a few academy students had this weekend was to fly with the Meriden chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association in their Young Eagles Day. This was not a school sponsored event, but I had publicized it to the students a few weeks ago, and I went out to the Meriden Markham Airport where it was held this Saturday to watch them fly. Today, these students shared their experience flying in a real, small airplane with the rest of the class. Such experiences can often be life-changing for a young person.

Here are photos of the eighth graders teaching the seventh graders in the makerspace:


Here are photos from the Young Eagles Day:


Using Many Teaching Styles for STEM Learning

Over the past week at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, both the 7th graders and 8th graders have done a variety of activities that appealed to various learning styles. The 7th graders learned about flight controls by seeing a demonstration using the flight simulator, and they will be practicing the use of flight controls on their next missions. They have also been learning about simple machines in a hands-on lab, and relating these machines to the way flight controls work on an airplane. The 8th graders concluded a unit on rockets that tied in with the current science unit on force, impulse, and Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. They did two virtual design projects: One was to design the space propulsion system to take astronauts, equipment, and supplies to Mars, and the other was to design a method of diverting a large asteroid from hitting our planet. To wrap up this unit, they had quizzes that were essay based and which gave some choice on how they could write their answers. Technical writing is a life skill, and we do regular writing exercises in the academy. Finally, in geometry the 8th graders also had a chance to be artistic and use geometric constructions to make a picture, which had to be accompanied by a one-page essay explaining it. In all these lessons, different students with various learning styles have had a chance to learn the way they like best. One of my 8th graders summarized how this all works in a recent feedback session:

“In the academy, I’ve liked what has been going on. The course content is not only interesting and diverse between the units, but the way it is being taught through different ways such as lecture, project, presentation, and lab or engineering project makes coming here a lot of fun…The only thing I’d say to keep the academy courses fun and new is keep up diversity in the lessons. It’s a lot of fun learning something new and different in a different way every day, and even though one student might not like one lesson one day, he/she is more than likely to like another lesson another day.”

Here are some photos of the 7th graders doing a simple machines lab:


Here are the 8th graders writing – and they write very well:


Finally, here is one of the 8th grade geometry art projects: