High school and middle school kids in New England have an opportunity to sign up for a new aviation summer program offered by the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (KMHT), Manchester/Londonderry. The National Flight Simulator is also based at the airport, which is located about an hour’s drive north of Boston, Massachusetts.
The four-week STEM program, Flights of Discovery, will run from July 10 through August 3. The camp is the brainchild of education director Deborra Losch. She joined the museum just seven months ago and started the program from scratch. Rather than reinvent the proverbial wheel, Losch reached out to aviation organizations around the country that offer kids’ camps—such as those run by the Experimental Aircraft Association—to pick their brains.
“I was not afraid to reach out to NASA, I reached out to Embry-Riddle, and even local places that hold summer camps, and I just asked, ‘How do you do it?’ And I worked with them to learn,” she said. “And it’s very hard work.”
“I’m still working on it every day, but everything I needed to put together to get it out there and get it started—the curriculum outlines, activities, all the registration material and marketing—was all done in the last six months,” Losch added.
The museum is encouraging kids to commit to the full four-week program because everything they learn leads up to the end, which culminates in one activity. They learn how to navigate, talk with the tower, learn about flight instruments, and use the simulator to learn basic flight principles. “And in the end, they fly their own course while taking to the tower, getting the weather from the meteorologists—who are also students.”
The students will be divided into small groups, called sections or units, which will be focusing on different learning units at different stages throughout the program. “In each unit, we have exercises where all the students get a chance to learn to, for example, take weather information and read it back in aviation terminology. So they learn how to take meteorology and turn it into a form pilots can use, like they do in an air traffic control center.”
“I’m working with the Nashua Boston Air Traffic Control—I’m basically bothering them all the time,” Losch said with a chuckle, “and we have some air traffic controllers who actually volunteer here who will help kids learn how to communicate with the tower.”
Student groups will swap roles during the culminating event, so each kid gets to experience each role. Middle school student curriculum will be centered on more hands-on activities and learning modules, and high school students will have the opportunity to learn about aviation career opportunities in addition to hands-on projects. And a volunteer will deliver pizza by helicopter at the end of the program.
Losch and the museum raised funds to subsidize kids from low-income families so that cost would not be a barrier for participation in the camp. Losch said she grew up poor, and is committed to helping youth find opportunities and resources to follow their aviation dreams, regardless of their backgrounds.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to go to aviation summer camp,” she recalled, “because I’ve been obsessed with aviation since I was a kid. And the problem was, I couldn’t afford it. So I wanted to create my very own summer camp that all kids would have access to.” She told her story at the annual gala and asked for donations; she raised over $8,000.
As of now, Losch doesn’t expect to be able to offer discovery flights to kids, though they will have an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be at the controls in the simulator. “Unless we can get [pilots] to sponsor us by giving our time, at the time being, [flying] is not an option.”
“The museum likes to say that aviation doesn’t just belong in a museum. It belongs in the future,” Losch said. “So they hired me to do outreach, help get more kids interested in aviation, to create that next generation of aviators.”
The four-week day camp will run from Monday, July 10, through Thursday, August 3. For information and to register, visit www.aviationmuseumofnh.org.