Did you know that 637,000 new pilots will be needed in the world by 2036, 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 three career and technical education (CTE) pathways: pilot, unmanned aircraft systems (drones), and aerospace engineering. 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.  The curriculum available for the 2018-19 school year are the first courses that all three pathways share. We invite your high school to apply to use the ninth grade courses that we have developed.

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 grade courses will be ready for high schools to implement for the 2018-19 school year, with additional grade levels available in the years 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 June 26 to 28, 2018 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. 

Please note: Materials provided below are based on the field test version of the ninth grade curriculum. Currently, the ninth grade curriculum is undergoing revisions based on the feedback and input from the field test. It is possible that there will be changes in the course outline, lessons, materials list, etc. When these materials are ready, AOPA will post updated versions of the documents below on its website. Click to review the Ninth Grade Outline


1st Semester – Principles of Aviation and Aerospace

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 processes 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 field test version, 2017-18).

Click on the link below to check out materials used for our field test during the first semester. This list will be modified before the final version is released this fall. 

Ninth grade materials list, first semester (Note: this list is not finalized)

2nd Semester – Exploring Aviation and Aerospace

This core aerospace and aviation course provides the foundation for all three 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 field test version, 2017-18).

Click on the link below to check out materials used for our field test during the second semester. This list will be modified before the final version is released this fall. 

Ninth grade materials list, second semester (Note: this list is not finalized)


AOPA will provide 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 a three-day professional development workshop June 26-28, 2018 in Frederick, Maryland for educators teaching the AOPA curriculum during the school year. This training will include how to deploy and teach the AOPA ninth grade aviation STEM curriculum. Additionally, teachers will be encouraged to join the AOPA Hangar High School Aviation online community for ongoing dialogue and support throughout the school year. 

  • Teachers who are teaching the curriculum are required to participate in the workshop, either in person or virtually. 
  • The cost of the in-person workshop is $200. There is no charge to participate virtually. 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. 

Data Requirements

The data outlined in this section will need to be submitted to AOPA by September 30, 2018 for the first semester course and February 23, 2019 for the second semester course.  

Required data for each school using the AOPA curriculum: 

  • School FARMs rate
  • Number of teachers teaching the AOPA curriculum 
  • Total number of students enrolled in the school 
  • High school graduation rate 
  • Graduation rate for students enrolled in courses using AOPA curriculum 

Required data for each teacher using the AOPA curriculum: 

  • Total number of students enrolled per semester 
  • Breakdown of students by gender, ethnicity per semester 
  • Average class pre- and post-course assessment scores per semester 

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. 

Selection Criteria and Process

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

  1. 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 in an official credit-bearing course.
  4. Commit to using AOPA curriculum for both semesters for the 2018-19 school year.
  5. Enroll at least five students in each AOPA course (per semester).
  6. The instructor teaching the course must participate in the professional development workshop provided by AOPA, June 26 - 28, 2018 (in-person or virtual).
  7. The teacher and school must be willing to provide AOPA with required data by the required dates.

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

  1. Meet all of the criterion 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) must participate in the professional development workshop on June 26 to 28, 2018 (in-person or virtual).
  4. 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 for the 2018-19 school year.

All completed applications and agreement forms must be submitted online to AOPA no later than 5 pm EDT, Thursday, April 19, 2018. Schools will be notified by Monday, April 30 of their selection status. If a school is selected, more information will be provided about curriculum access and teacher professional development registration for the June 26 - 28 workshop.

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.

Who can teach the curriculum?

That is up to the school to decide. In the ninth-grade 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.  

What kind of materials will a school need to purchase and what kind of budget should we plan for?

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.  

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. 

What kind of industry credential can students earn using this curriculum?

For the pilot pathway, the 10th and 11th grade courses are intended to prepare students to take the FAA Private Pilot written exam. For the UAS (drones) pathway, the 10th and 11th grade courses are intended to prepare the students to take the FAA Commercial Drone Pilot Part 107 written exam. For the aerospace engineering pathway, the courses will prepare students to take a 3-D modeling software assessment. 

Are you providing professional development?

Classroom teachers using the curriculum are required to participate in a three-day workshop June 26 to 28, 2018, either in person or virtually. This workshop will provide teachers with content knowledge and instruction on how to use the curriculum website and materials. Participants will have the opportunity to take part in course activities and network with other aviation teachers. The registration fee for the in-person three-day workshop is $200 per person and includes all breakfasts, lunches and workshop materials. There is no cost to participate in the workshop virtually. Additionally, teachers will be encouraged to join the AOPA Hangar, an online community, for ongoing discussions related to the high school curriculum.

Can students use this curriculum as an online course?

No, this curriculum is intended to be used by educators to teach a credit-bearing course and is not intended to serve as an online course for students working independently from a teacher. 

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

No, this curriculum is intended to be used to teach a credit-bearing course during normal school hours. 

Can my school use this as courses for grades other than ninth grade?

Yes, schools can use these courses for other grades as electives. AOPA is building four years’ worth of curriculum so that a school has a full aviation program stretching from ninth grade through twelfth grade. Currently, the ninth grade courses are available to schools. 

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. 

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