The local Area EAA Chapter has had great success with the Young Eagle Flights that it has offered.   The Young Eagle Flights have been well received by both the students who were able to go on one of these flights and also by their parents.   But, the parents have often commented that the Young Eagle Flight was a good experience, what can their children do next?   Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good response.
As an attempt to fill this void, in 2000 I started offering aviation classes at Parkside Elementary as part of their After Hours Classes.   These classes initially used the “Flight Site” that had been donated by the Experimental Aircraft Association.   Later the Delta Dart project was added.   These classes were offered with the assistance of Larry Morlock and Mike Foushee. In the Fall of 2004 the classes moved to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus Indiana (i.e. part of an organization called the Foundation For Youth (FFY)).   By moving the classes to the FFY, I was able to offer them classes more often and reach a better target audience.   Also, with the move to the FFY, the classes became known as the First Flights Classes. The class materials have also been used to earn the Boy Scout Aviation Merit badge and the Girl Scout Aerospace badge.
At the FFY, the First Flights classes continue to use the “Flight Site” that was at Parkside (i.e. when Parkside stopped using it, I was able to get it donated to the FFY). Since then I have expanded these classes to include the following projects:
There are two different ways to look at what the students gain by participating in these First Flights classes.   Both are equally valid. First and most obvious, these classes are a chance to learn about aviation. The students learn about aviation by learning some affordable/age appropriate ways to be involved in aviation, some basic model making skills and they have fun.   To do this, I have a series of projects that the students build and fly.   Beyond this, they can fly a remote control airplane, fly a flight simulator or get to go flying in an airplane. The second way to view these classes is that they are a chance to learn basic skills that can be applied in many different ways.   The skills learned can include basic math and science, weather, how to make things, goal setting and working in a group.   The FFY calls this “stealth learning”.   I use aviation to make the classes interesting, but we are teaching skills that can be applied elsewhere.
One of the things that I have found is that these classes need to be adapted to where ever they are offered.   Some examples of this is that the Parkside Elementary School library, where we previously offered classes, has a great balcony for launching gliders. Tthe classes at the airport offered a nice outside area for flying models (i.e. outside the fence) and the ability to take the kids out on to the airport ramp when the models are drying.   The classes at the Foundation For Youth have the ability to reserve the gym for flying of models.   However, the FFY classes need to be more flexible, as attendance varies depending on whether the students are able to attend each week (i.e. this may depend on which parent they are staying with that week or when they are getting picked up).
For these classes each student is issued their own set of tools to use for the project. This allows each student to focus on their own project.   They do not have to spend time figuring out where the needed tools went or if someone is making their project faster.   Furthermore, every attempt is made to use tools that are low cost and can be purchased locally (i.e. this gives examples of what they could use if they want to be making the projects at home).
In making the model airplanes, we want the students to learn how to build the models correctly and safely.   The tools the students are issued to use have been selected to be as safe as possible. Rather than use single edge razor blades we use razor blade holders to keep fingers further away from the shape edge.   The modeling knives we use can not roll off the table. Students are directed to keep knives retracted or covered when not in use.   For the glider projects they use scissors rather than modeling knives to cut the balsa sheets.   The glues that the students use are washable (i.e. when CA glue is used it is used by one of the adults).   Finally, the students are told early in the first session that horseplay will not be tolerated.
Because I want to make sure each student has a chance to see their project fly and fly well, we don’t let them take their projects home until they have flown them with us.   This way we can show them how to adjust their projects to make them fly well.   It also ensures that they leave with a sense of accomplishment about their projects rather than frustration.   Further, having heard stories like “When I took it home, my cat jumped on it”, “it got broken in my backpack” or “my little brother broke it” we want to make sure that they have seen their projects fly well.   Having an indoor gym at the FFY in which to fly the models is a big advantage (i.e. the weather is dependable; the models can’t fly away and it helps with keeping the kids together).
In offering these classes I try to make sure each group gets to see the EAA video “Young Eagle”.   This video is fifteen years old. Still,it has an excellent message, namely, that one needs to have goals and the only way to achieve ones goals is to work toward achieving them.   It uses a boy and his chance to fly in a Curtiss Jenny to demonstrate this concept. I view this as a very important message, independent of where each of the student’s interests may lead.
Another goal of these classes is to keep the cost of offering these classes as low as possible.   An example of this is that the raw materials for projects are purchased in bulk and I can use my band saw to cut the wood to the needed sizes.   The students then need only to round off the ends and make some measurements to apply some reference marks.   By the doing this, the cost of the materials for most of the projects can be kept to less than $1.00/each.   Another example is that 35 Delta Dart kits can be purchased for $42.32. By keeping the cost low it isn’t a big issue when something needs to be replaced due to errors in making the project or when repairing a project which has broken.   Cost also is kept down by making my own jigs.   Rather having to purchase the $10.00 jigs for setting the dihedral of Delta Dart wings, I made jigs from some scrap material.   Also, for winding the rubber motors of the Delta Darts, simple fixtures were made to hold them and a hand drill makes a good winder rather than purchasing a "special tool".   As a side note, the Copy Paper Squirrel is an excellent alternative to the Delta Dart. Part of why I offer these classes is seeing the joy that the students have in taking these classes and part is knowing these students wouldn’t be learning/exposed to these things if these classes weren’t being offered. The students clearly want to be in these classes as demonstrated by the disappointment of the students that can not be fit into a particular session. Or the joy when they get to see the projects that they made fly well and the surprise in finding out they get to take their projects home with them. This is also demonstrated by the nice Christmas cards that the students of the classes made for me or by stopping to say Hi to me when they see me outside of these classes. Another example of offering these classes is when a group of 55 kids visited the Columbus Municipal Airport. They toured the airport and made/flew the Fantastic Flyer project. This group can be seen in the picture below and their feedback was: “The kids absolutely loved it! Thank you so much for organizing this and allowing our children this great opportunity! The staff thought it was one of the better field trips we have done in the past few years. The kids loved the gliders and the opportunity to see a helicopter. If we do this in the future, hopefully the weather will be better! Thank you!” Danelle Cord
This website was put together as a way to share what has been developed for these classes and to receive feedback about these classes. I have received the following feedback about this website:
So, this is a basic summary of the First Flights classes that I offer. If you would like more details, please let me know.Brett Herrick