On May 11, 2017 a group of six teachers from Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), along with Hank Okraski, chairman of the National Center for Simulation (NCS) education and workforce development committee and member of the OCPS community action team, and Dr. Neal Finkelstein, chief engineer at the Army Research Lab-Orlando, visited Brevard County’s Golfview Elementary Magnet School.

Debi Pringle, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) coordination teacher introduced the OCPS group to the ground-breaking work being done in STEAM at Golfview Elementary, setting the stage for technology transfer to OCPS.

Golfview Elementary is a “STEAM” magnet school; the school added the “A” for the arts to its STEM program. Their reputation of using forward-looking approaches to instruction is exemplified in their use of flight simulators in their aviation program. Microsoft simulators are used as the instructional platform to teach not just flying skills but other topics such as mathematics, physics, biological sciences and problem-solving.

OCPS is interested in leveraging the instructional technologies and “know-how” in their new Hungerford Elementary Academy to be built in Eatonville, Florida. The academy replaces an older school with “aviation” as a major emphasis, and Lockheed Martin has donated 25 Prepar3D flight simulators to the school. Okraski is coordinating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among NCS, OCPS and the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Eatonville and Hungerford have existing and historical ties to the “Red Tail Squadron” and Tuskegee University.

“This is a very unique endeavor by OCPS to maintain the culture and history of Eatonville, the nation’s oldest African-American city, while moving forward with today’s instructional technology,” said Okraski. “It is a team effort, involving many highly motivated individuals, including the school principal, Ms. Letecia Foster, and organizations are all geared for success.”

Finkelstein was very impressed with what he observed at Golfview and added, “Aviation is one of the largest industrial sectors in Florida supporting the military. A recent University of West Florida report sponsored by Enterprise Florida estimated that over 370 aviation companies call Florida their home. To support that industrial base, we need a pipeline of students interested in working in this field.

“Engaging students in aviation and simulation as early as the third grade is very exciting,” said Finkelstein. “I applaud Ms. Pringle and all the teachers at Golfview for their unique approaches to teaching a rigorous STEAM curriculum.”

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