December 12, 2011
To the delight of 100 fourth and fifth grade students, a helicopter landed on the playground of Staunton Elementary School.
Shouts of excitement announced the arrival of a MedEvac helicopter to the Clay County school on a windy afternoon earlier this semester -the kickoff to an award-winning program known as Project TAKEOFF, an acronym for Teaching Aviation Knowledge Educates Our Future Flyers. The initiative was co-designed by Troy Allen, associate professor of aviation at Indiana State University and former project manager for INDOT's Aeronautics Department.
"Project TAKEOFF was developed as an inter-disciplinary teaching tool that could be used to excite children in grades two thru six about aviation while teaching them fundamentals of math, science and history," said Allen.
Before the helicopter came into view, students could hear the sound of the chopper. They stared upwards, searching the sky, eagerly awaiting the helicopter's arrival. Just a few moments later, the helicopter appeared and touched down just a couple hundred feet in front of the students.
Following the landing, the helicopter's pilot, nurse and paramedic talked with the students, who sat up, back straightened, eager to ask questions.
"Is it hard to fly?" asked one student.
"Do you like your job?" questioned another.
After a question and answer session that lasted half an hour, the elementary school children returned to their classrooms to watch presentations by ISU students.
They presented basic aviation concepts to the elementary school classes and then asked questions, said Allison Gary, an Indianapolis native studying psychology and criminology. The ISU students also taught the Staunton pupils to create penny flyers, or paper airplanes.
Students were more than willing to answer questions, enticed by prizes donated by the Air Force and Army ROTC for each response.
The Sycamores are enrolled in an introductory honor course about aviation that Allen teaches at ISU. In the University Honors Program course, Allen teaches the students basic aviation principles. Other course highlights include flying the aviation department simulators and piloting a small plane on a flight across west-central Indiana.
"It is my hope that by coupling in-class activities and experiential learning, the students will develop a deeper understanding of aviation and walk away with a sense of self-confidence in what they have accomplished," said Allen.
Most of the students in the class are not majoring in aviation, and are taking the course simply because they are interested.
As an Air Force ROTC student, freshman Eric Downing had an obvious interest in the subject. "With this class, I hope to get more insight into aviation and how planes are flown," he said.
Allen said he hopes that students will leave the class with "a greater appreciation for aviation and its impact on the economy and society."
"It broadens their education," he said. "Through this recent event at Staunton elementary, the Honor students have taken what they have learned and become teachers."
"After the individual presentations we gave in the classrooms, the students really enjoyed making and flying their own penny-flyers," said ISU senior Lindsey Butorac. "And the students loved the helicopter landing right in front of them," she said.
"Judging from all of the smiles they received from the elementary students," Allen said, "I think it was an enjoyable event for students at Staunton and a meaningful learning experience for ISU students."
Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-Sh39BBS/0/L/i-Sh39BBS-L.jpg (ISU/Sam Barnes)
Staunton Elementary School students watch as the helicopter's pilot, paramedic and nurse answer questions in front of the helicopter.
Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-trZzpV2/0/L/i-trZzpV2-L.jpg (ISU/Sam Barnes)
Children from Staunton Elementary School raise their hands during an interactive presentation by Indiana State students.
Contact: Troy Allen, associate professor of aviation, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-237-2660.
Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University.
Project TAKEOFF, an acronym for Teaching Aviation Knowledge Educates Our Future Flyers and consisting of ISU students, visited Staunton Elementary School in Clay County to teach students about aviation.