In 2017, under the leadership of Ada Schools District Superintendent, Mike Anderson, and Director of Academics & Instruction Paula Kedy, Ada High School was the first in the state to offer the new curriculum. Fifteen Oklahoma schools have launched aviation programs since.
After the creation of the new curriculum, members of the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter expressed concerns about the lack of pilots and other aerospace professionals during a visit to elementary school children. Members encouraged students to explore the newly rehabilitated Ada Municipal Airport.
From that initial visit, EAA offered to pay for Kedy to attend an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) symposium in Washington State. At the end of the symposium, AOPA encouraged schools to sign up for the “You Can Fly” Initiative. Ada was the first in Oklahoma to participate.
The AOPA curriculum program consists of two pathways, the pilot pathway and the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) pathway. Schools may choose to implement one or both. The difficulty of the course work increases each consecutive year, building upon the knowledge required to become a private pilot or UAS pilot.
“Some 29 schools field tested the AOPA High School Aviation Curriculum across the Country. Paula Kedy was right there representing Ada Public Schools and the State of Oklahoma at the beginning,” said State Director of Aeronautics, Grayson Ardies. “It was at that time we knew that Paula would change the course of aviation education in Oklahoma, and just this year, we recruited her to lead our education programs for the Commission.”
Kedy, the Commission’s Aerospace and Aviation Education Coordinator, is working to assist schools in the development of aviation and aerospace education programs. “I am very excited about the number of school district administrators who have contacted the Commission about creating aerospace STEM pathways for students. It is critical that schools begin offering course work that leads students to strong post-secondary programs and to careers in Oklahoma’s second largest industry,” stated Kedy.
Kedy has spent the past few months visiting with superintendents and teachers across Oklahoma about the AOPA program. Along with existing Oklahoma schools that are teaching the AOPA curriculum, districts such as Atoka, Chickasha, El Reno, Oilton, and Seminole are working to build quality aviation STEM programs for students.
“We know that most urban school districts understand the need for a skilled aerospace workforce because they are aware of Tinker Air Force Base, the American Airlines Maintenance Facility, Boeing, and other large companies,” said Kedy, “and we are proud to foster and encourage pathways to aerospace engineering and airframe and overhaul mechanics. But, I also feel that it is critical to serve rural students through our programs. It has been rewarding to help build partnerships between Oklahoma schools and many of the 108 airports that are a part of Oklahoma’s airport system. Industry leaders, local aviation enthusiasts, and airport personnel are now volunteering to work with students. That’s a win-win for Oklahoma students and for the industry!”
The registration period for schools wishing to apply to teach the AOPA curriculum is now open. Interested educators may access the application at aopa.org/apply. Applications must be submitted no later than May 31, 2021.
“This program, by design, works with superintendents, counselors, and educators, to bring aviation into the classroom. One of the most important things we do at the Commission, is to foster and encourage aerospace and aviation in Oklahoma. The AOPA curriculum is one of many ways we achieve that, but we need schools to partner with us,” said Ardies.
For more information about the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission programs, visit https://oac.ok.gov/aviation-education.