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STEM Teachers 'Take Flight' At NJ Alexandria Field

STEM Teachers 'Take Flight' At NJ Alexandria Field

Spending Time In The Cockpit Will Help Them Become "Pilot In Command Of Your Classroom.”

Twelve teachers responsible for instruction in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related subjects are on the cutting edge of leadership development by stepping out of their normal routines and into the cockpit of an airplane with the "Leaders Take Flight" workshop. This educational adventure will take place on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 at Alexandria Field in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

Leaders Take Flight Participant

Participants represent schools from throughout the region that include Rutgers University, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Raritan Valley Community College, Hunterdon County Polytech, Delaware Valley Regional High School and Alexandria Township Middle School.

The Leaders Take Flight workshops are one component of a demonstration project that expands the role of a general aviation airport, Alexandria Field, as an educational resource and living laboratory in the community. This aviation-education collaborative was recognized by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) in September 2010, and awarded a Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program (GAMTTEP) grant of $100,000. The grant, along with numerous in-kind resources from the local community is funding over 20 educational programs, including two Take Flight workshops. The June event is for teachers and another is scheduled in August for young women students from local high schools.

“The objective of the collaborative is to encourage the development of STEM related careers for women and other underserved populations”, said Linda Castner, the Central Jersey GAMTTEP program director. “The unique aspect of this collaborative is using the resources of a general aviation outlet for new STEM learning and encourage not only development of the individual, but create an awareness regarding careers in the aviation workforce. These Take Flight workshops use airplanes as a learning environment.”

During this two-day intensive program, twelve female teachers will delve into management development using flight. Through a carefully designed series of experiential learning exercises, the airplane and its related activities serve as metaphors for successful leadership behaviors that can be used in everyday challenges. This new, 360 degree perspective, allows participants to take note of routine responses and interpretations that limit their performance and effectiveness, and to realize new, creative solutions for leading their classrooms and their personal lives.

Several of the educators selected for the workshop have expressed their high expectations for the workshop. Stefanie Bord, a science teacher at Hunterdon Central, said, “I’m excited to be a part of this workshop - to grab a hold of engineering and technology - to gain control over something I’ve never imagined I could, and see the world from a completely different view!”

Because all of the participants are educators of some kind, there is an emphasis on spreading the knowledge learned during these two days to their students and using the skills obtained to influence a younger generation of women to “take flight” themselves, in whatever they wish to pursue. Karen Batista, a science teacher at Hunterdon Central, anticipates taking the experience of the Take Flight workshop to her classroom, and describe what she observed and learned to empower her female students: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘oh, I’m not smart enough for that!’. And yet, these very same girls stand at the top of their class. So the program’s purpose of increasing self confidence, self respect, self esteem, and empowerment are goals that ring true for me.”

Linda Castner

Marianne Baricevic, a teacher and supervisor at Raritan Valley Community College described her expectations: that attending the Leaders Take Flight workshop will enlighten her on how she can lead a group of very intelligent, headstrong and creative group of instructors to benefit the people they work for: their students. In anticipation of the workshop, Delaware Valley science teacher Nicole Carro said, “I would like to use my experience with the Leaders Take Flight workshop to inform students about the physics at work and also to inspire them to take on their personal challenges.”

The workshop will unfold in three dimensions. It will provide the flying experience itself, an analysis of the experience as it unfolds, and a capitalization on the effects of the adrenaline rush and the high-pressure situation. The workshop is comprised of classroom instruction and experiential activities, including two hours of flight instruction and one hour of ground instruction with a typical training aircraft. Workshop facilitators include Dr. Sue Stafford of Simmons College and Linda Castner of Alexandria Field as ground facilitators. Rich Stowell, an internationally recognized flight instructor from Santa Paula, California, Sarah Brooks, a flight instructor at Auburn University, and Andy Phillips, a flight instructor at Alexandria Field, as the flight facilitators.

Past participants in the workshops have provided women in a variety of roles, businesswomen, busy mothers, teenagers interested in STEM, and the teachers that educate them, to learn and enhance leadership traits, confidence, adaptability, and teamwork. Beverly Stoskus, an Alexandria Township Middle School guidance counselor, summarized her expectations when she said, “this workshop will be a wonderful opportunity to be ‘filled up, renewed and stretched’.”

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