Application deadline is February 28, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (EST).


Did you know that 790,000 new pilots will be needed in the world by 2037, 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 in aviation careers that they may not have previously considered. 

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the world's largest aviation community, is building aviation STEM curriculum for high schools across America. When complete, the program will be the first of its kind, offering students comprehensive four-year aviation study options that are aligned to rigorous math and science standards used in many states nationwide.  

We’re creating these courses as part of two career and technical education (CTE) pathways: pilot and unmanned aircraft systems (drones). Each pathway will be 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, and eleventh grade courses in the 2020-2021 school year. 

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


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 for Mathematics.

The ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade courses will be ready for high schools to implement for the 2020-21 school year, with 12th grade to follow.

Schools must apply to use the curriculum and, if accepted, must agree to provide essential data that will be used to track the program’s effectiveness and impact.

Anyone teaching AOPA's courses must participate in professional development. Teachers can get the most from the curriculum by attending a three-day professional development workshop in Frederick, Maryland. The workshop is the best way to gain a deeper understanding of each course, learn more about available resources, and network with other aviation educators.  

During the workshop, teachers will gain access to the curriculum and learn more about its structure, design, and available resources. Teachers will also become familiar with aviation content, participate in student hands-on activities, gain strategies for teaching aviation-related concepts, and network with like-minded peers from across the country. 

Cost for the workshop is $200 per person, which includes all workshop materials as well as breakfast and lunch daily. Teachers who are unable to attend the in-person workshop may participate virtually, but workshop interaction will be limited. Virtual attendees will not be able to participate in the many engaging hands-on activities with their peers. There is no cost to participate in the workshop virtually. 



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).


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.

Eleventh Grade Curriculum

1st Semester – The Flying Environment

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.

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.

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.


AOPA provides this curriculum at no charge to high schools. Participating schools must agree to certain requirements set by AOPA. These include participating in professional development, providing data to AOPA (see outline below), and agreeing to a non-disclosure statement.

High School Requirements

The High School commits to running the course(s) as a unique class throughout the school year.

The High School Administrator shall:

  • Fully support his/her teacher’s in-person or virtual participation in the professional development workshop.
  • Ensure that participating students receive credit and grades for the course.
  • Provide data as requested by AOPA. Additional detail is provided in the Data Requirements section below.

Teacher Requirements 

Students learn ground school techniques in Holly Branch's class at Raisbeck Aviation High School in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, Washington, June 8. The school added courses in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to the traditional high school curriculum. Photo by David Tulis.AOPA will conduct three-day professional development workshops for each grade level in Frederick, Maryland for educators teaching the AOPA curriculum during the school year. This training will include how to deploy and teach the AOPA aviation STEM curriculum.

  • Prior to using any curriculum course for the first time, teachers are required to participate in all three days of training for that grade level(s), either in person or virtually. Teachers who have previously attended the training do not need to participate again in subsequent years.
  • The cost of the in-person workshop is $200. The in-person registration fee covers breakfasts, lunches, and materials for the workshop. It does not include transportation or housing costs. Teachers are strongly encouraged to attend the workshop in person in order to receive the maximum benefit and fully participate in interactive activities.
  • There is no charge to participate virtually.
  • 2020 workshop schedule:
    • March 20-22 - 9th Grade
    • March 27-29 - 10th Grade
    • April 17-19 - 11th Grade
    • April 24-26 - 9th Grade
    • June 2-4 - 10th Grade
    • June 23-25 - 11th Grade
    • July 8-10 - 12th Grade

Data 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, 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.


To be eligible for application to use the AOPA aviation STEM curriculum, you must comply with the following:

  1. The teacher using the curriculum must be a paid or contracted employee by a school system or school.
  2. Secure support of school district (if applicable) and school administration.
  3. Use AOPA curriculum in its entirety as an official credit-bearing course for the school year.
  4. Commit to using AOPA curriculum for both semesters for the school year.
  5. Enroll at least five students in each AOPA course (per semester).
  6. If teaching AOPA’s curriculum for the first time, the instructor must participate in AOPA's professional development workshop. This training must occur prior to the start of the school year. 

To be eligible for selection to use the AOPA aviation STEM curriculum, you must have the following:

  1. Meet all of the criteria above.
  2. Submit a completed application and agreement form, with all required information and signatures, signifying support of the school district (if applicable) and school administration.
  3. Teacher(s) and school must agree to submit all required data before or on the dates provided on the agreement form.

AOPA reserves the right to select, in its sole discretion, schools that will be allowed to use the AOPA high school aviation STEM curriculum.

The application process for using the curriculum is now open. Schools will be notified no later than March 11, 2020 of their selection status. If a school is selected, more information will be provided about curriculum access and teacher professional development registration for the workshop(s). The application process closes Friday, February 28, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (EST).

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


Ninth grade courses - For one class of 20-25 students using the ninth-grade course materials, a school should budget approximately $1,000 to $1,500 for the entire school year. All materials are easy to access and can be purchased online or at big box and home improvement stores.  

Tenth grade courses – Simulation plays a big role in learning about flight and many options exist to schools looking to purchase equipment. A simple desktop computer, flight simulator software, and a joystick can be adequate.Or, desktop simulators equipped with a yoke and rudder pedals can offer an experience that more closely feels like flying.Additionally, learning to fly safely with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is an important part of the tenth-grade curriculum. Small UAS can be purchased for approximately $99 and can be found online.Smartphone applications can serve as controls for small UAS and are free.There are several small activities embedded throughout the tenth grade curriculum that require simple office supplies such as paper, tape, string, paperclips, etc.

Eleventh grade courses - the materials list will become available in the spring of 2020.

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, as well as traditional high schools.


No, this curriculum is structured to be delivered by a teacher during the school day and is not structured for independent learners.

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.