Crossroads of Humanity

Aug 2, 2013

AirVenture 2013

This past Tuesday, I attended AirVenture 2013 at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and it was truly amazing! If you've never been, you would not believe the number of people who show up for this week long event. Parking lots are filled, extra parking lots are created in grassy fields, and small aircraft are parked in more fields even as others fly in and out every day. Vendors, speakers and pilots show off their unique wares. Center stage is the daily airshow.

Jetman made his first U.S. appearance.

I love small planes. Yes, I've always dreamed of earning my pilot's license. The only thing holding me back was finances. I thought learning to fly planes must be expensive. But that isn't true. And for young people, it can cost nothing at all.

Tuesday was Teachers' Day! Teachers had a free pass to the grounds and the airshow if they attended a panel of speakers throughout the morning. That was no problem at all. In fact, it was exactly what I wanted to do! We each received a bag full of aviation teaching supplies, and one lady gave anyone who stopped by her table an online code to receive even more free books and lesson plans in the mail. I was thrilled to learn that most of what they had to offer and share ties into the national standards as well as being aligned with STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. One speaker joked that it's really STEAM, and the "a" stands for aviation.

Just take a look at what's available. There really is something for every age level:
  • The General Avaition Manufacturers Association (GAMA) teamed up with Build a Plane (BAP) this year. Two high school teams won the chance to build two airplanes that were flown at AirVenture 2013. I was thrilled to see what they'd done yet saddened that so few schools participated. In my opinion, high schools throughout every state should have entered at least one team. Please remain aware to see if they make this an annual event.

  • The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) kits are another way to get kids interested in aviation. It's easy to sign up for the AMA Flight School. If you'd rather just purchase integrated STEM kits, you can go to Whitebox Learning.
  • You can register your class for a fast-paced 1/2 day aviation program for kids ages 12-18 at Youth Aviation Adventure
  • Your class can go on a virtual field trip via interactive video conferencing at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.: Dressing for Space (gr. preK-3), Kites, Wings and Flying Things (gr. 3-5), Inventing the Airplane (gr. 5-7), Helicopters, Straight Up! (gr. 5-7), To the Moon or Mars (gr. 8+). Just do a Google search for the exact program you're interested in. 
  • At Fly to Learn, high school students design, build and fly virtual planes.
  • And don't forget about Space Camp. Did you know that they still have summer sessions for teachers? How cool is that!
  • Finally, here is a one stop clearinghouse for all your aviation and space related resources: Think Global Flight, fostering STEM education and Green technology.
One additional resource that I have used in the past is Dream Flight USA. If you're teaching in a school anywhere near central Wisconsin, you should check it out for sure!

This was not my first Teachers' Day at AirVenture, but this year had something extra special. My daughter was finally old enough to want to see the airshow with me. She had three firsts at AirVenture this year, each a really big deal for her:

1. Her first yellow school bus ride because the airfield is pretty far away from the museum so they continually shuttle visitors to the airshow throughout the week.

2. Her first airshow. Our favorite act was The 4ce. Even though only three of their planes performed for us, they were still AMAZING! Watch this video to see what I mean.

3. Her first A&W root beer float. Yummy!
I LOVE AirVenture, and I would like to publicly thank the Uhl-Chmiel family because they were the ones who first told me about Teachers' Day, a day for teachers to come together and learn about the many ways that we can introduce all of the careers associated with airplanes to our students.

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.

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