Getting Guest Speakers to Engage Students with STEM

At the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School we invite in a guest speaker about twice per month on average. All of these speakers are people involved with aerospace or engineering in some way or another. My goal is also for the speaker’s main focus to match up with the current unit of study. Today we had Senior Master Sergeant Babcock, Connecticut Air National Guard, come and speak about the aircrew flight equipment career field, formerly known as life support. This career field involves the maintenance and preparation of equipment such as oxygen masks, parachutes, and survival gear that keep aircrew alive at high altitudes and in emergencies. This matched up well with our current science unit on the human body systems, especially the respiratory and circulatory systems, and with our current aerospace science unit on the physiology of flight and space travel. Sergeant Babcock gave an outstanding presentation explaining the effects of high altitude and low pressure on the human body, answered questions, and demonstrated various pieces of aircrew flight equipment which the students could then try on. The following photos show the students donning helmets, parachutes, and various oxygen systems. This lesson is an authentic application of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics we are studying, and it is one of the best ways to reinforce these topics.

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First Field Trip for Academy Students – Aerospace All Day

Students in C-130 cockpit
Students in C-130 cockpit

The students of the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School took their first field trip today to Bradley Airport, Connecticut. They visited the New England Air Museum and the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing. Before the trip, the students studied the websites of both locations. Organized into 4-person crews, they picked goals for learning and questions to ask that the entire crew agreed  on.  Once at the destinations, the students worked together to find the answers to their crew’s goals and questions. Tomorrow, they will get a quiz based entirely on their goals and questions. In other words, the students chose what they wanted to learn on this trip, then were held accountable to actually learn it. The goals and questions they came up with were shared before the trip with the entire class, and they were all appropriate and pertinent to our learning objectives. Watching them today, I was proud of their inquisitiveness and diligence to understand what they saw. Both the museum staff and the Guard personnel were outstanding hosts. With the exception of a fender bender we suffered at the start of the trip, the day went very well. The following photos show some of what we did.

Students learn about spacesuits
Students learn about spacesuits
Walking out to a C-130
Walking out to a C-130
C-130 aircrew briefs students
C-130 aircrew briefs students
In the cockpit 2
Students try out the C-130 aircrew seats
Students on flightline
Walking off the flight line
Fender bender causes delay
Fender bender causes delay