There is a grass-roots aeronautics movement taking off in Oklahoma classrooms, and the aviation and aerospace industry is counting on an innovative program to reach new heights.
The 4-year “You Can Fly” High School Curriculum developed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is being adopted by independent school districts at a record pace across the state.
Over the last several years, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has led the way to advocate and implement this novel curriculum to support Oklahoma’s commitment to solve workforce challenges and to ensure that the state’s second-largest industry, aviation and aerospace, will continue to be a major economic driver for the state. Today, Oklahoma is ranked third in the Nation for implementing the AOPA curriculum with nearly 30 schools teaching it, and is on the heels of overtaking the lead this fall with the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
In late 2021 the Commission, as part of a statewide consortium, was awarded a Federal Aviation Administration Workforce Development Grant to further support the implementation of the AOPA program and to make Oklahoma’s educators aware of the potential that aviation and aerospace have in their classrooms. One of the foundational aspects of receiving the FAA grant funding was the ability to name five Oklahoma high schools as “Aviation High Schools of Excellence.”
These five schools, Ada High School, McAlester High School, Mustang High School, Okmulgee High School, and Pryor High School were all early adopters of the AOPA program and are in year three or beyond of implementing the curriculum.
“Our most valuable resources are the many partnerships we have established with local, state and national organizations,” Mike Anderson, Ada City Schools Superintendent said. These partners have helped us build an aviation program that we can all be proud of. Two of those organizations are the AOPA and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. Each organization has helped us build programming as wide-ranging as, “A Is For Airplane” at our Early Childhood Center, to capstone projects and solo flights for our high school students.”
Because of these five schools expertise and willingness to share their knowledge they have been designated to assist what is expected to be 50 Oklahoma high schools in the implementation of the AOPA Curriculum for next school year and will serve as hubs for aviation STEM activities and teacher professional development.
“We are very pleased to recognize these five high schools as Oklahoma Aviation High Schools of Excellence,” stated State Director of Aeronautics, Grayson Ardies. “Each of these schools has demonstrated a commitment to the implementation of strong aviation education programming, not just through high school coursework but the development of vertically aligned PreK-12 aviation programs and activities. Many in the industry have long-desired this aviation-focused, primary-level education curriculum to get students started on an early flight path to joining an aviation or aerospace career.”
“In addition to these five early adopters of the AOPA program, we are seeing wonderful news elsewhere in Oklahoma to support the industry’s workforce needs. The announcement of Norman Public Schools and its desire to develop an aviation and aerospace-focused high school is an amazing step forward,” said Paula Kedy, who began the state’s aviation education revolution while working with Ada Public Schools. Kedy is the lead source in the state regarding aviation and aerospace education at the primary school level and now represents the Aeronautics Commission as a member of its staff. “Proponents of the effort are hopeful that the AOPA curriculum, and schools that are adopting it, will create energy across the state which will enhance the industry’s ability to recruit workforce talent from within Oklahoma,” Kedy continued.
You can learn more about the program by visiting oac.ok.gov/aviation-education.