Flight instructor John Skias, left, explains controls in the cockpit as eighth-grade students take notes next to a real glider airplane on display for Glider Day at Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School in Castaic on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

SCVi studies flight with Glider Day

By Nathanael Rodriguez

Special to The Signal

SCVi students experienced a hands-on aeronautics lesson Tuesday at the Castaic campus.

The charter school’s collaboration with Southern California Soaring Academy offered students an opportunity to interact with a full-size glider.

The charter school’s collaboration with Southern California Soaring Academy offered students an opportunity to interact with a full-size glider.

The knowledge students receive about aeronautics doesn’t start there, however. Through a six-week project that’s a part of the eighth-grade curriculum, students study all of their subjects through the lens of aeronautics. Everything from history to physics is taught with the goal of exposing students to all sides of the subject, even practicing with a flight simulator in class.

“If you can learn subjects through the lens of one thing, you learn it better,” said Kathleen Fredette, director of iLEAD’s STEAM program.

Flight instructor Tom Coussens, left, explains the function of a tail rudder as eighth-grade students take notes next to a real glider airplane on display for Glider Day at Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School in Castaic on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Fredette began working on development of the aeronautics project after the Soaring Academy reached out to her five years ago and asked if the schools could be partners. Fredette was more than happy to oblige, as project-based learning is the backbone of iLEAD schools, she said.

“There’s an emphasis on socioemotional learning centered on the question, ‘How do I become an effective learner?” said Fredette.

The curriculum at iLEAD schools doesn’t use textbooks and typical lecture methods of teaching. Instead, teaching focuses on igniting the spark of curiosity through hands-on practical teaching.

Through the aeronautics project, students apply what they’ve learned in the past weeks and complement it with teaching from the Southern California Soaring Academy. The academy brings a full-size glider to the campus, and students are given the opportunity to interact with it and learn how to operate it, as well as study the science behind how it flies.

“It’s going to pique an interest — it does every year,” said Community Outreach Coordinator Sara Brown. “Several students now have their pilot’s license because of the program.”

Next month, the students have a field trip scheduled to Crystal Airport in Llano for their first flight lesson. For 20 to 45 minutes, the students plan to join an instructor who will show them how to pilot the glider themselves.

“There’s no project like this that I’ve ever seen,” said Fredette. “I’m so glad that our school is willing to do this because, when you allow kids to do real stuff, it re-engages their curiosity.”

At the end of the glider demonstration at the school, she gathers the students to discuss what they’ve learned. The emphasis, however, is on something different than aeronautics. Fredette brings the students back to the cores of iLEAD schools, encouraging them to remain curious and explore horizons that they might not have known they had.

“Today, upstairs, we weren’t talking about aerodynamics or flying,” said Fredette. “What I hope they learn from this is something about themselves.”

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