Aviation Day puts St. Catharine, Spring Lake, students in pilot seat

Trenton Monitor report

UP, UP AND AWAY • Students in St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, test their piloting skills using a white drone during Aviation Day Nov. 22. Eighth-graders who have been studying principles of aviation spent the day assisting with various activities and creation of flying contraptions. Photo courtesy of Kathy Francis

General aviation and aerospace are subjects the eighth graders of St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, are studying intently this academic year. As part of that unit, the students planned and hosted an Aviation Day Nov. 22 for Pre-K3 through seventh grades.

Under the direction of teacher, Captain Kathy Francis, and Colonel Michael Castania, both members of the Civil Air Patrol – a volunteer auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force – the students have been focusing on many aspects of aviation and organizing the Aviation Day, which took place during National Aviation Month.

“Over a period of several weeks, the students were able to select the activities they wanted to demonstrate to the younger grades,” Captain Francis explained. “They researched their topics, made posters, tested their prototypes, and organized supplies needed to make this a successful event.”

During Aviation Day, they demonstrated each activity and explained the science behind flight to the younger students. Activities included making and testing FPG9 gliders, paper airplanes, hoop gliders, air cannons, tetrahedral kites, hovercrafts, quadcopter flying lessons, balloon and straw rockets, whirligigs and parachutes.

“Some concepts covered were Newton’s Laws of Motion, Bernoulli’s Principle and the Four Forces of Flight,” Captain Francis noted. “This event brought together the entire elementary school community, CAP STEM activities, U.S. Naval Academy activities, a local Airport FBO staff member, and a 94-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran, who was also a member of the original Blue Angels crew.”

Joe Bielak, Sr., whom Captain Francis met during a Rutgers football game that honored veterans, was recognized with larger-than-life Blue Angels displayed throughout the school gym – created by students tracing their body outlines onto poster paper and painting the seven- to eight-foot angels blue.

“Joe, Sr., is a very humble man,” Captain Francis remarked. “Rutgers wanted to honor him at the football game, but he declined. His son, Joe Bielak, Jr., is a former Marine who served in the Gulf War.”

The student-teaching aspect for the eighth graders was a highlight of Aviation Day, who Captain Francis said were eager to share their talents and knowledge with the younger students. She asked them to post their feedback on Aviation Day in Google Docs, and their responses indicated how seriously they take their teaching responsibilities.

“It is important for older students to show younger ones because you are closer in age to them,” one eighth grader posted. “They might find it easier to understand from a kid and learn new things.”

Another shared, “The younger kids really look up to the older kids. So, by teaching them and showing them around, it will make them very happy. The older kids gain leadership skills, and the young kids learn something new.”

Additionally, the eighth graders listed “setting up all the stations and explaining to the kids why aviation is an important part in our lives,” “showing everyone how to make paper airplanes – it was fun to see what everyone made,” and “learning different things about aviation” as much enjoyed aspects of Aviation Day.

Captain Francis is the CAP NJ Wing Director of Aerospace Education for External Programs. Colonel Castania is the National Director of CAP Aerospace Education. He was also awarded the 2017 CAP National Aerospace Education Officer of the Year Award.

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