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AOPA HIGH SCHOOL STEM CURRICULUM High School Aviation STEM Curriculum

Questions? Contact us at [email protected].

ABOUT

Did you know that 763,000 new pilots will be needed in the world by 2039, based on Boeing's Pilot and Technician Outlook? Ironically, the number of pilot certificates issued by the Federal Aviation Administration has decreased more than 60 percent since 1980. This mismatch of supply and demand presents a tremendous opportunity for students to pursue aviation careers that they may not previously have  considered. 

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the world's largest aviation community, has created an aviation STEM curriculum for high schools across the United States. The AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum is the first of its kind, offering students comprehensive four-year aviation study options that are aligned to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

AOPA has created these courses as part of two career and technical education (CTE) pathways: Pilot and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones). Each pathway is four years in length, and schools can decide to implement one or more complete pathways, or select individual courses to use as standalone electives. Schools may now apply to use the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade courses in the  upcoming school year. 

Thanks to generous donations to the AOPA Foundation, all courses are offered to high schools at no charge. 

WHAT’S INCLUDED

This curriculum is intended for teachers to use in a formalized education setting as a credit-bearing course. The curriculum is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards and through crosswalks can be aligned to individual state standards.

The ninth and tenth grade courses, eleventh grade Pilot and UAS Pathway courses, and the twelfth grade Pilot Pathway course are available for high schools to implement in the upcoming school year. The twelfth grade UAS Pathway course will be available to all schools for the 2022-2023 school year.

Each course is a turn-key set of high quality instructional and assessment resources written by an expert team comprised of veteran teachers, curriculum professionals, pilots and flight instructors. The curriculum is delivered in electronic format to all teachers through the AOPA website. Every one of the lessons that make up each year-long course includes everything that a teacher needs to provide rigorous and exciting project-based learning experiences:

  • 5E model lesson plans aligned to CCSS and NGSS
  • Teacher presentations with embedded instructional safe video links
  • Student activities and projects, project rubrics, and materials lists
  • Extension activities for enrichment and strategies for inclusion

Evaluating student growth and performance is easy with AOPA-provided  formative and summative assessments within each lesson, unit quizzes and exams, and semester pre- and post-tests.

Included with the curriculum is an outstanding initial and ongoing professional development and teacher support program. Initial professional development is provided for teachers who will be teaching any of the courses for the first time. The initial training is mandatory and is offered in multiple formats that provide teachers with options to meet their own learning styles and to fit their busy schedules. Ongoing professional development will be available to all teachers during the school year via webinars and other electronic formats. AOPA social media groups, the AOPA High School Initiative Team, and AOPA’s rich library of educational resources provide a wealth of information to support teachers in their instructional journey.

COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

Click on any of the course names below to see the course description, outline, materials list, and a sample lesson plan, teacher presentation, student activities, and lesson supporting documents.

9th Grade Curriculum

1st Semester – Launching Into Aviation

The ninth-grade course will provide the foundation for advanced exploration in the areas of flying, aerospace engineering, and unmanned aircraft systems. Students will learn about engineering practices, problem-solving, and the innovations and technological developments that have made today’s aviation and aerospace industries possible.

Students will look at the problem-solving practices and innovative leaps that transformed space exploration from the unimaginable to the common in a single generation. Students will also gain historical perspective, starting from the earliest flying machines and leading to the wide variety of modern aircraft and the integral role they play in making today’s world work.

Click on the links below to review the Wind Tunnel Lesson materials (samples from ninth grade, first semester).

2nd Semester – Exploring Aviation and Aerospace

This core aerospace and aviation course provides the foundation for both pathways. It is designed to give students a clear understanding of career opportunities in aviation and aerospace and the critical issues affecting the aviation system.

Students will also begin to drill down into the various sectors of aviation and the elements that make up the aviation and aerospace ecosystem. They will discover how advances in aviation created a need for regulation and will learn about the promulgation of civil aviation oversight.

Students will explore modern innovations and develop their own innovative ideas to address real-world challenges facing the aviation industry. They will be exposed to a variety of career options in aviation and aerospace and take an in-depth look at the opportunities available. For schools offering multiple pathways, this course will allow students to begin to define their individual interests.

Click on the links below to review the Accident Case Study lesson materials (samples from ninth grade, second semester).

10th Grade Curriculum

1st Semester – Introduction to Flight

In the Introduction to Flight Course, students pursuing the pilot and UAS tracks will take a closer look at the aircraft they may one day operate. Students will begin with an exploration of the types of aircraft in use today before going on to learn how aircraft are made and how they fly. Students will understand how aircraft are categorized, be able to identify their parts, and learn about aircraft construction techniques and materials. They will gain an in-depth understanding of the forces of flight—lift, weight, thrust, and drag—including how to make key calculations. They will then touch on aircraft design, looking at stability, aircraft controls, and maneuvering flight. The course will conclude with a focus on career skills related to these topics.

Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the tenth-grade curriculum, “Theories of Lift” lesson.

2nd Semester – Aircraft Systems and Performance

In the Aircraft Systems and Performance course, students in the UAS and Pilot tracks will take an in-depth look at the systems that make manned and unmanned aircraft work as well as the instrumentation powered by those systems. Beginning with aircraft powerplants and fuel systems, students will learn about the different options available and how they affect aircraft design and performance. They will go on to explore other key aircraft systems, including electrical, pitot-static, and vacuum systems. Throughout, they will learn about the flight instruments associated with each system and how to identify and troubleshoot common problems. This unit also covers airplane flight manuals, the pilot's operating handbook, and required aircraft documents. Finally, students will learn about the factors that affect aircraft performance and how to determine critical operating data for aircraft.

11th GRADE PILOT PATHWAY CURRICULUM

1st Semester – The Flying Environment

Note: 1st semester curriculum for 11th grade Pilot and UAS pathways are the same. The pathways differ in the 2nd semester curriculum.

This course is foundational for both manned and unmanned aviation, and will prepare students to take either of two Federal Aviation Administration tests: the Private Pilot Knowledge Test or the Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test. Topics include: pre-flight procedures, airspace, radio communications, aviation phraseology, regulations, airport operations, aviation safety, weather, cockpit management, and emergency procedures.

Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the eleventh grade first semester lesson, “Pilot Communications.”

2nd Semester Pilot Pathway – Flight Planning

The Flight Planning course will cover remaining topics necessary for students to take the Federal Aviation Administration's Private Pilot Knowledge Test. Students will learn pilot and aircraft qualifications, cross-country flight planning, weight and balance, performance and limitations, human factors, chart use, night operations, navigation systems, and aeronautical decision making. Students will be provided the opportunity to participate in multiple practice examinations. At the end of this course, a school may choose to arrange for students to be signed off to take the Federal Aviation Administration's Private Pilot written exam.

Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the eleventh grade second semester Pilot lesson, “Which Way to Steer?”

11th Grade UAS Pathway Curriculum

1st Semester – The Flying Environment

Note: 1st semester curriculum for 11th grade Pilot and UAS pathways are the same. The pathways differ in the 2nd semester curriculum.

This course is foundational for both manned and unmanned aviation, and will prepare students to take either of two Federal Aviation Administration tests: the Private Pilot Knowledge Test or the Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test. Topics include: pre-flight procedures, airspace, radio communications, aviation phraseology, regulations, airport operations, aviation safety, weather, cockpit management, and emergency procedures.

Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the eleventh grade first semester lesson, “Pilot Communications.”

2nd Semester UAS Pathway – UAS Operations

The UAS Operations course will cover small unmanned aircraft performance, ethics, human factors, aeronautical decision-making and judgment, safety protocols, weight and balance, maintenance, aviation weather sources and effects of weather (micro-meteorology) on small unmanned aircraft performance, small unmanned aircraft loading and performance, emergency procedures, crew resource management, and preflight inspection procedures. Students will be provided the opportunity to participate in multiple practice examinations. Students will be prepared to complete the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test upon completion of this course.

Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the eleventh grade second semester UAS lesson, “UAS Aerodynamics and Performance?”

 

12th GRADE PILOT PATHWAY CURRICULUM

1st Semester Pilot Pathway– Preflight Your Career

After having prepared for the Private Pilot Knowledge Test and Part 107 Remote Pilot Test in the previous year, students will examine advanced aviation topics and aviation career options. Instrument flight, commercial aviation, and advanced aircraft systems begin the semester. Looking into the future, students will then explore new horizons in the aerospace industry. What might aviation look like five, ten, or 20 years into the future? The focus then turns to business development opportunities in aviation. Finally, students will learn about and conduct different types of research in preparation for their capstone project in the second semester.

Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the twelfth grade first semester lesson, “From Looking at Stars to Living on Mars.”

2nd Semester Pilot Pathway– The Capstone Experience

The capstone course is the culmination of the student learning experience. The students will work as individuals or in small groups to study and report on an approved aviation topic of their choosing. The goal of this capstone course is to allow students to demonstrate an understanding of a contemporary topic in aviation as it relates to flying. The curriculum will include presentations and activities to help guide student research and project development as well as suggestions for topics or projects that can be adapted to match available resources.

REQUIREMENTS

AOPA provides the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum at no charge to high schools. AOPA also commits to supporting schools in starting and growing successful aviation programs through the implementation of the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. In return, participating schools, administrators, and teachers commit to meeting certain simple requirements set by AOPA. These requirements are spelled out in detail in the Selection Criteria section below.

High School Key Requirements

A simple online application form is required from all high schools that intend to use the curriculum for the first time in the upcoming school year. The application process is not competitive and all applications that meet the requirements as outlined in the Selection Criteria section below will be approved.

Teacher Key Requirements 

Upon approval of high school curriculum applications, each teacher within a school who will be teaching the curriculum is required to complete an online teacher information form. The form incudes contact information, the courses the teacher will be teaching, and other general information.

Upon completing the teacher information form, teachers will complete an online teacher agreement form in which they commit to the terms listed in the Selection Criteria section below.

School and District Administrator Key Requirements

One school administrator and one district administrator will be required to complete an online agreement form in which the school and district commit to specific course offering and data collection requirements and to support the teacher(s) who will be implementing the curriculum. Details of those commitments are included in the Selection Criteria section below.

Access to Professional Development and Curriculum Resources

Teachers will be given access to professional development opportunities and curriculum resources upon submission and approval of the following online forms:

  • High School Application Form
  • Teacher Information Form(s)
  • Teacher Agreement Form(s)
  • School and District Administrator Agreement Form

SELECTION CRITERIA

The following criteria must be met in order to be eligible to use the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum:

  • The teacher(s) using the curriculum must be a paid or contracted employee of a school system or school.
  • The school district (if applicable) and school administration must agree to provide support to the teacher(s).
  • The school must use the AOPA courses it will teach in their entirety as an official credit-bearing course for the school year.
  • The school must commit to using both semesters of the AOPA courses it will teach. For schools using a block scheduling system, both semesters of material may be taught during a single semester.
  • The school must enroll at least five students in each AOPA course to be taught.
  • If teaching AOPA’s curriculum at a given grade level for the first time, the instructor must participate in AOPA's professional development. This training must occur prior to the start of the school year.
  • The school must submit completed application and agreement forms, with all required information and signatures, signifying support of the school district (if applicable) and school administration.
  • Teacher(s) and school must agree to submit all required data before or on the dates provided on the agreement form. Details of the data reporting requirements are listed in the section below.

AOPA reserves the right to select, in its sole discretion, schools that will be allowed to use the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum.

Data Reporting Requirements

Data will be collected from each teacher using the curriculum four times per year – at the beginning and end of each semester.

Required data for each teacher per class per semester using the AOPA curriculum:

  • School FARMs rate (Free and Reduced Meals percentage)
  • Total number of students enrolled in the AOPA course(s)
  • Total number of students by gender and ethnicity
  • Average class pre- and post-course assessment scores
  • Aviation related data, e.g. the number of students pursuing flight training, taking FAA written tests, taking flight checkrides, etc.
  • High school graduation rate
  • Graduation rate for students enrolled in courses using AOPA curriculum

If a high school continues courses in a pathway(s), data will need to be provided from the high school providing the number of students continuing in the pathway, number of CTE completers, and industry credential metrics. AOPA may request additional data. No personally identifying student information will be collected.

The application process for using the curriculum is now open. Schools will be notified of their selection status and next steps in the order in which applications are received. Once all forms are received and approved, more detailed information will be provided about curriculum access and teacher professional development options.

The deadline to submit all completed application forms for the 2021-2022 school year is Monday, May 31, 2021.

No Changes and Non-Disclosure: The school, including participating teachers and administrators shall not in any circumstance edit, alter, chase, share, disseminate or otherwise distribute the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum (in whole or in part, or in digital or print formats) to other non-participating schools (at any level), organizations, and/or teachers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the curriculum cost?

Not a thing - the curriculum is free.

IF THE CURRICULUM IS FREE, WHY DO WE HAVE TO APPLY TO USE IT?

For AOPA to offer the curriculum at no charge, it needs to use funding sources to pay for its development. These sources often require information (how many students, gender, ethnicity, etc.) about who is using the curriculum. This application will serve as an agreement that the school will provide this data to AOPA, as well as agree to other requirements for its use.

Who can teach the curriculum?

Who teaches the AOPA curriculum is up to the school to decide. In the field test, a wide variety of teachers have been successful in teaching the curriculum. Successful field test teachers have included former airline and military pilots and certificated flight instructors, as well as science, engineering, and technology teachers.

HOW ARE THE LESSON PLANS STRUCTURED?

The lessons are built based on increments of 50-minute sessions.  Some lessons are designed for one 50-minute time session and others involving hands-on activities or student projects are longer.  Each lesson plan identifies how many sessions that lesson entails in the beginning of the lesson plan. In total, one year’s worth of curriculum provides 140 sessions of content. This will allow a teacher the flexibility to extend time as needed, participate in field trips, or allow time for school related activities.

ARE ASSESSMENTS PROVIDED IN THE CURRICULUM?

Each semester course provides a pre- and post-assessment with teacher answer key. Additionally, each unit offers a unit quiz that tests students’ knowledge in the first half of the unit.  The end of each unit assesses student understanding through a unit exam. Additionally, each lesson provides a formative assessment and summative assessment.

WHAT KIND OF MATERIALS WILL A SCHOOL NEED TO PURCHASE AND WHAT KIND OF BUDGET SHOULD WE PLAN FOR?

AOPA’s curriculum is designed with cost in mind, as it is important to us to deliver high-quality lessons that are within every school’s budget. Regardless of which course your school is considering, all materials required for projects can be supplied to a class of 20-25 students for approximately $1,000 to $1,500. These materials can be purchased either online or at big box and home improvement stores. While simulators (airplane or drone) are not required to successfully teach AOPA courses, every course allows opportunities for schools to take advantage of any simulation equipment that they have available. For schools teaching AOPA’s UAS pathway (available in 11th or 12th grade), at least one small UAS (drone) will be essential, along with batteries and other accessories. Small drones ideal for classroom instruction can be purchased online for approximately $99.

What type of schools can use the curriculum?

This curriculum can be used by any school as part of their credit-bearing course offerings. Public, private, urban, and rural high schools are using the curriculum currently. Participating schools include charter schools, career and technical high schools, home school co-op programs, as well as traditional high schools.

IS THIS CURRICULUM AVAILABLE AS AN ONLINE COURSE?

This curriculum is structured to be delivered by a teacher during the school day and is not structured for independent learners. Lesson materials are delivered electronically to teachers through the AOPA website. AOPA Curriculum teachers have the option of using the electronic resources as part of online learning environments provided that they adhere to the “No Changes and Non-Disclosure” requirements in the Selection Criteria section of this page.

Can this curriculum be used as an after-school program?

Based on current staffing and resources available, at this time, we are only accepting schools using the curriculum in its entirety as a credit-bearing course during the school day.  Lessons are not designed to be used intermittently, but rather, they build on concepts learned at different phases of the year. 

In the future, we will consider how to provide the opportunity to other aviation education providers to utilize resources from the curriculum for summer programs, outreach events, etc. 

Still have questions? Please contact the High School Aviation Initiative team at [email protected].

Please note: The curriculum materials provided on this website are subject to change.