Questions? Contact us at [email protected].
By 2041, 602,000 new pilots and 610,000 technicians will be needed worldwide, according to Boeing's Pilot and Technician Outlook. Ironically, the number of airline transport pilot certificates issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2021 is 21% less than in 2012. This mismatch of supply and demand presents a tremendous opportunity for students to pursue aviation careers that they may not have previously considered.
The AOPA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the world's largest aviation community, AOPA, has created an aviation STEM curriculum for high schools across the U.S. The AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum is the first of its kind, offering students comprehensive four-year aviation study options aligned to Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and FAA Airman Certification Standards (ACS).
Thanks to generous donations to the AOPA Foundation, all courses are offered to high schools at no charge. Schools may now apply to use any or all of the courses in the upcoming school year.
The Curriculum consists of two aviation STEM career and technical education (CTE) pathways: Pilot and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones). Each pathway is four years, and schools can decide to implement one or more complete pathways or select individual courses to use as standalone electives.
Teachers use our curriculum in a formalized education setting as a credit-bearing course. It's flexible and can be aligned to individual state standards.
The curriculum includes six courses across two pathways, as shown below. Schools may choose to offer one, some, or all courses in any school year to match their program goals and students' needs.
Each course is a turn-key set of high-quality instructional and assessment resources written by an expert team of veteran teachers, curriculum professionals, pilots, and flight instructors. Delivered online, each lesson includes everything a teacher needs to provide rigorous and engaging problem-based learning experiences:
Evaluating student growth and performance is easy with formative and summative assessments, unit quizzes and exams, and semester pre-and post-tests.
We offer initial and ongoing professional development. Initial professional development is provided and delivered free online or paid in person. Ongoing support is also available to teachers during the school year. AOPA social media groups, the AOPA Foundation High School Initiative Team, and AOPA's rich library of educational resources offer a wealth of information to support teachers in their instructional journey.
Click on any of the course names below to see the course description, outline, materials list, sample lesson plan, teacher presentation, student activities, and supporting documents.
The ninth-grade course provides the foundation for advanced exploration in 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 a historical perspective, from the earliest flying machines to various modern aircraft.
Click on the links below to review the Wind Tunnel Lesson materials (samples from ninth grade, first semester).
This core aerospace and aviation course provides the foundation for both pathways and gives students a clear understanding of career opportunities in aviation and aerospace and the critical issues affecting the industry.
Students will also begin to drill down into the various sectors of aviation and the elements that make up the aerospace ecosystem. They will discover how advances in aviation created a need for regulation and learn about the promulgation of civil aviation oversight.
Students will explore modern innovations and develop innovative ideas to address the aviation industry's real-world challenges. They will be exposed to various career options in aviation and aerospace and take an in-depth look at available opportunities.
Click on the links below to review the Accident Case Study lesson materials (samples from ninth grade, second semester).
In the Introduction to Flight course, students pursuing the Pilot and UAS tracks will look closely at the aircraft they may one day operate. Students will begin with an exploration of the types of aircraft in use today before learning 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 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.
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 crewed and uncrewed aircraft work. Beginning with aircraft powerplants and fuel systems, students will learn about the options available and how they affect aircraft design and performance. They will explore other key aircraft systems, including electrical, pitot-static, and vacuum systems. Throughout the course, they will learn about the flight instruments associated with each system and how to identify and troubleshoot common problems. This unit also covers aircraft flight manuals and required aircraft documents. Finally, students will learn about the factors that affect aircraft performance and how to determine critical operating data for aircraft.
Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the tenth-grade curriculum, “Electrical Systems.”
Note: The first-semester curriculum for eleventh-grade Pilot and UAS pathways is the same. The pathways differ in the second semester.
This course is foundational for both crewed and uncrewed aviation. It will prepare students to take either Federal Aviation Administration tests: the Private Pilot Knowledge Test or the Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test. Topics include preflight procedures, airspace, radio communications, aviation terminology, 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.”
The Flight Planning course will cover the remaining topics necessary for students to take the Federal Aviation Administration's Private Pilot Knowledge Test. Students will learn about 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 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?”
The UAS Operations course will cover many topics surrounding UAS missions, from mission planning to UAV performance to crew resource management. Students may take 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?”
Students will examine advanced aviation topics and career options after preparing for the Private Pilot Knowledge Test or Part 107 Remote Pilot Test in the previous year. 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 twenty 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."
The capstone course is the culmination of the student learning experience. The students will work individually or in small groups to study and report on an 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. The curriculum will include presentations and activities to help guide student research and project development.
Click on the links below to review a sample lesson from the 12th grade second semester lesson, "What is a Capstone?"
After preparing for the Part 107 Remote Pilot Test the previous year, students can earn a valuable FAA certification and CTE stackable credential to work as commercial drone pilots. This year, they will use that certification—and the knowledge they acquired pursuing it—in real-world scenarios that illustrate how drones are used across various industries today. Students will also learn how drone operations can be used to build or enhance a business and the entrepreneurial skills necessary to get a start-up off the ground. They will also review drone rules within their communities, enabling them to make recommendations to elected officials on optimizing UAS operations in their communities. Finally, students will learn about and conduct different types of research in preparation for their capstone project in the second semester.
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 a UAS topic of their choosing. The goal of this capstone course is to allow students to demonstrate an understanding of a contemporary topic in the drone industry. The curriculum will include presentations and activities to help guide student research and project development.
A school will identify a Point of Contact (POC) who will complete a simple online application form. The POC will act as the primary contact with the AOPA Foundation and guide school staff through the remaining steps in the application process. The application process is not competitive, and all applications that meet the requirements outlined in the Selection Criteria and Requirements section below will be approved.
Upon approval of a high school's curriculum application, the school's POC will receive a link they will send to every teacher who will be teaching the curriculum. The link takes teachers to an online teacher information form, which each teacher will complete. The form includes contact information, the courses the teacher will teach, and other general information. As part of the teacher information form, teachers will agree to the terms and conditions listed in the Selection Criteria and Requirements section below.
A school administrator will receive an email with a link to an online (DocuSign) agreement form. By signing the form, the school commits to specific course offerings and data collection requirements. The school commits to supporting the teacher(s) who will be implementing the curriculum. Those commitments are included in the Selection Criteria and Requirements section below.
Teachers will be given access to professional development opportunities and curriculum resources upon submission and approval of the following online forms:
The AOPA Foundation provides the High School Aviation STEM Curriculum at no charge to high schools. The AOPA Foundation also supports schools starting and growing successful aviation programs. In return, participating schools, administrators, and teachers commit to meeting simple, specific criteria the AOPA Foundation sets.
The AOPA Foundation reserves the right to select schools that will be allowed to use the High School Aviation STEM Curriculum.
Data will be collected from each teacher using the curriculum twice per academic term – at the beginning and end of each term. The AOPA Foundation uses the data to demonstrate the impact of the program's educational and workforce development to its donors. In short, data reporting helps keep the curriculum, professional development, and support free to all high schools.
An example of impact data reporting is available at this link
Required data for each teacher per class per semester using the curriculum:
IMPORTANT: No personally identifying student information will be collected. The AOPA Foundation will never report information that can be identified as belonging to a single school or district.
The application process for using the curriculum opens on November 13, 2022. Schools will be notified of their approval status and the next steps in the order in which applications are received. Once all forms are received and approved, detailed information about curriculum access and teacher professional development options will be provided.
The deadline to submit all completed application forms for the 2023-2024 school year is Friday, June 2, 2023.
No Changes and Non-Disclosure: The school, including participating teachers and administrators, shall not in any circumstance edit, alter, share, disseminate or otherwise distribute the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum (in whole or in part, or digital or print formats) to other non-participating schools (at any level), organizations, and/or teachers.
Who teaches the curriculum is up to the school to decide based on applicable state teacher certification requirements for the specific academic program in which the courses will be taught.
Because of the training the AOPA Foundation provides to teachers of the curriculum, any certificated teacher is eligible to teach the courses (provided state certification regulations are followed).
Being a pilot is not a requirement. Teachers from all subject areas are successfully teaching the AOPA Foundation curriculum.
The AOPA Foundation helps all teachers grow in their capacity to teach the curriculum. We provide teacher training and resources to assist teachers in increasing their aviation knowledge and skills.
The lessons are built based on increments of 50-minute sessions. Each lesson plan identifies how many sessions that lesson entails.
In total, one year's worth of curriculum provides the equivalent of 140 50-minute class sessions of content. This allows a teacher to extend the time as needed, participate in field trips, or allow time for school-related activities.
The courses are taught nationwide in schools with many different scheduling options, including traditional 40-50 minute class sessions, 70-100 minute block schedules, and half-day and full-day sessions one to two days per week.
Each semester course provides a pre-and post-assessment. Additionally, formative and summative assessments, quizzes, unit tests, and project rubrics are provided.
The curriculum is designed with cost in mind, as it is important to us to deliver high-quality lessons 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 $1,500 to $2,000. These materials can be purchased online or at big box and home improvement stores. While simulators (airplane or drone) are not required to teach the courses successfully, every course allows schools to take advantage of any available simulation equipment. For schools teaching the 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 $100
Any high school can use our curriculum as part of its credit-bearing course offerings. Public, private, urban, and rural high schools and districts use the curriculum. Participating schools include charter schools, career, and technical high schools, and home school co-op programs.
Our curriculum is structured to be delivered by a teacher during the school day. It is not structured for independent learners. Lesson materials are delivered electronically to teachers through the AOPA Foundation website. Teachers may use learning management systems to deliver curriculum material to their students. This form of delivery is acceptable, provided the school adheres to the "No Changes and Non-Disclosure" requirements in this page's Selection Criteria and Requirements section.
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; instead, they build on concepts learned at different phases of the year.
Curriculum access is granted one school year at a time. A simple renewal form will be sent to the Point of Contact at an appropriate time for schools to renew for the following school year.
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.
100s of high schools nationwide adopted the AOPA Foundation's Free High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. See what you're missing! Request your sample 9th-grade lesson materials— The Wright Approach today.