FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


New National Flight Academy targets STEM

National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation

Covering Its Bases
The flight academy has developed four programs:

Aviation in Residence (AIR): Three- to five-day sessions aboard the academy’s simulated carrier — named “Ambition” — June 3 through Aug. 10 at a cost of $600 to $1,250 per student

Aviation Classroom Experience (ACE): Learning labs for middle and high schools nationwide and teacher training
Aviation Inspired Mission (AIM): For parents and students at public museums or science centers
Aviation Web Experience (AWE): For use in game play and education at home
Pensacola’s National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation is extending its mission with a new, $45-million institution focused on science, technology, math and engineering. In May, the foundation, which operates the museum and has conducted education-related programs since 1993, opened the National Flight Academy, a 102,000-sq.-ft. structure built to mimic a modern aircraft carrier it calls the Ambition.

Middle- and high-school students who attend three- and five-day overnight programs will be immersed in aviation-related role-playing scenarios — disaster relief or homeland security missions, for example —?that emphasize math and technology.

The game-like programs — designed by aviators and creative writers — teach team building and communication skills along with principles of flight, propulsion and meteorology. The exercises make extensive use of high-tech simulators. “Only the Department of Defense has more simulators,” says Shelley Ragsdale, the foundation’s marketing director.

The museum and academy sit side by side on the grounds of the Pensacola Naval Air Station; the museum is authorized but not endorsed or supported by the U.S. Navy.

In addition to its programs for students, the tuition-supported academy offers programs for corporate groups and web-based distance learning for teachers and students.

The University of West Florida , which developed the curriculum, has installed a teacher-training academy replica classroom on its campus. Retired Vice Adm. Gerald Hoewing, president of the academy and the foundation, says the academy hopes to have at least 1,000 middle schools, high schools and universities pick up its curriculum over the next decade.

“If we’re going to make a difference in education outcomes of America,” he says, “then we have to be able to reach millions of students.”