Oklahoma Schools Celebrate Aviation-Focused STEM Curriculum

AOPA recognizes Oklahoma schools for leading the country in STEM program acceptance.

Aviation and aerospace is the second largest industry in Oklahoma, so it is fitting that high schools in the Sooner state lead the nation in the number of schools approved to teach the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) high school aviation curriculum.

Known as the You Can Fly curriculum, the coursework focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math—or STEM—and will be taught at the schools in the fall.

Appearing Tuesday at a STEM conference at the University of Oklahoma, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell said, “From CareerTech certifications to a dozen collegiate programs, Oklahoma has led the way in aerospace education for decades. The implementation of AOPA Aviation Curriculum in high schools across the state marks the next milestone in growing aerospace talent in Oklahoma. The aerospace industry employs more than 120,000 Oklahomans, and our continued investment in education will lead to more high-paying jobs in our state.”

AOPA president and CEO Mark Baker and the State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies  confirmed that 58 school districts have signed onto the program, and that has moved the Sooner State into first place in the U.S. for STEM education.

“I am so proud that Oklahoma is ranked first in the nation for high schools teaching the AOPA curriculum,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “Thanks to innovative leadership and the work of Oklahoma Aeronautics, we are helping young people find a passion for aviation and aerospace. As a pilot, I am excited to see what the future brings for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and the aerospace industry in our state.”

At a four-day AOPA You Can Fly conference in Norman this week, teachers enjoyed discovery flights provided by the OU School of Aviation Studies. [Photo: Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission]

Teaching the Teachers

The announcement was the apex of a four-day conference for high school teachers who teach STEM curriculum. The conference featured hands-on training, discovery flights for teachers, lab activities, and a chance to collaborate with teachers from across the nation on best  practices in the implementation of You Can Fly

AOPA’ s Baker noted the curriculum is proving to be very popular across the country, and that in the past school year more than 12,000 students of various backgrounds took part.

“I’m most proud that 49 percent of the students in our high school program come from minority backgrounds, and 21 percent are female. We need more inclusion in aviation,” Baker said.

How It Began

During the early days of the pandemic in 2020-21, staff from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission contacted high school superintendents and school counselors across Oklahoma’s 77 counties, asking if they could discuss the You Can Fly curriculum with them.

To support the program, in late 2021 the commission took on the monumental task of applying for a workforce development grant funded by the FAA to add support for its implementation. The staff is working with those 58 schools to distribute FAA funds directly toward classroom supplies. One foundational aspect of receiving the FAA grant was to name five Oklahoma high schools as “Aviation High Schools of Excellence.”

These schools are: Ada High School, McAlester High School, Mustang High School, Okmulgee High School, and Pryor High School, and all were recognized by the state legislature during the 2022 session. They were the first to adopt the AOPA program and are serving as models for new high schools implementing the curriculum in the state.

To further advance the program, state lawmakers, Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, and Sen. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, filed Senate Bill 1147, which Stitt signed into law. The law directs the State Board of Education to help ensure aviation courses are eligible for non-elective academic credit toward meeting Oklahoma’s graduation requirements.

Why It Matters

According to The Boeing Company’s Pilot and Technician Outlook 2021-2040, globally, 612,000 new pilots, 626,000 new maintenance technicians, and 886,000 new cabin crew members will be needed over the next 20 years. To fill this need and support the growing aviation industry, a steady pipeline of STEM-oriented and educated individuals with a passion for aviation is required. AOPA’s high school curriculum aims to inspire high school students to pursue aviation careers and provide them with an aviation-focused STEM education to support their future success. 

Oklahoma School Districts teaching the AOPA STEM curriculum in fiscal year 2022-2023:

  • Ada High School and Junior High
  • Altus High School
  • Alva High School
  • Ardmore High School
  • Atoka High School
  • Bartlesville High School
  • Battiest High School
  • Bristow High School
  • Byng High School
  • Charles Page High School
  • Chelsea High School
  • Chisholm High School
  • Davenport High School
  • Deer Creek High School
  • Drumright Public Schools
  • Duncan High School
  • Durant High School
  • Educators for Christian Homeschoolers of OK (ECHO)
  • Elmore City Pernell High School
  • Enid High School
  • Fort Cobb Broxton
  • Frederick High School
  • Grandfield High School
  • Great Plains Technology Center
  • Ketchum High School
  • Kingfisher High School
  • Lawton High School
  • Madill High School
  • Marietta High school
  • McAlester High School
  • Mustang High School
  • Norman High School
  • Norman North High School
  • Oilton High School
  • Oklahoma Fine Arts and Science Academy WHHS
  • Okmulgee High School
  • Owasso High School
  • Paoli Public School
  • Pauls Valley High School
  • Piedmont High School
  • Ponca City High School
  • Poteau High School
  • Pawhuska High School
  • Pryor High School
  • Putnam City North High School
  • Seminole High School
  • Sequoyah High School
  • Shawnee High School
  • Tri County Tech
  • Tulsa Technology Center
  • Washington High School
  • Wayne High School
  • Weatherford High School
  • Wewoka High School
  • Wyandotte School District 1
  • Wynnewood High School
  • Yukon High School


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