It was already like Christmastime on Tuesday when technology teacher Sarah Brund got several Amazon boxes full of materials for the new flight course she’ll be teaching next semester at Longfellow Middle School.

“I have no clue what’s in this box, but that is the fun part,” Brund said before slicing open a long, brown box filled with components for making and launching bottle rockets, as part of her future Flight and Space class. “I don’t know how to set it up … there’s lots of pieces, but it’s very exciting.”

Seventh- and eighth-graders at all three middle schools can take Enid Public Schools’ new course offering next spring, thanks to backing from Vance Air Force Base that covered the cost of the materials and training for the teachers.

In the class, students will learn to craft flight plans for airplanes ranging from small, personal ones to commercial- sized jumbos. They’ll then start making actual planes by trying to perfect paper airplanes before launching their own, as well as the bottle rockets.

Eventually, the kids will plan a flight through space all the way to Mars.

“It’s all just a matter of getting to play and enjoy learning,” Brund said. “So that’s what I love about these classes, that it’s all about exploration.”

Brund said she still was being trained to teach the course being offered by the organization Project Lead the Way, which provides teachers nationwide with basic curriculum for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes.

“I never even realized the details that go into planning flights,” she said, “the things we don’t think about when we book a flight,” including weather, fuel calculations and even flight crew staffing.

Brund said she’d be adding an introduction to the history of aviation in her own two classes, in order to pad out PLTW’s nine-week course for the entire 18-week semester. She said she’d also like to take students on a tour of Vance to see planes taking off up close.

“I don’t know if they’ve ever been close enough to experience (planes taking off) … how powerful they can be,” she said.

Vance paid for the teachers’ course materials, as well as their training required to then teach the base curriculum.

The district typically pays for each teacher to train for each PLTW module — Flight and Space’s training would’ve cost the district $1,200 per teacher, EPS STEAM coordinator Kitty Herbel said.

Bruno’s colleague, technology teacher Brent Polwort, said the new course he’ll be teaching next semester at Emerson Middle School was a natural tie-in to Enid’s Air Force installation.

“It’s been ingrained in me,” Polwort, an Enid native, said. “The Air Force base is a part of life. It’s where you hear jets fly over.”

He and Waller Middle School’s technology teacher attended a week’s worth of training this summer to learn the curriculum provided by PLTW.

Vance has given the district more than $45,000 through the Air Force’s STEM grant program in the last three years, according to EPS. The funds have primarily been for Enid High School’s fabrication lab classes.

EPS’ newly revised technology pathway starts in the middle schools, with the district’s current PLTW classes such as Design and Modeling, Robotics and Automation, and App Creators.

“It’s one more class along that pathway,” Herbel said.

At Longfellow, Brund currently teaches the first two of those three classes, along with EPS’ introductory Media Production course.

She said a lot of her students this semester are already excited she’s teaching the class next spring.

“A lot of these kids that I work with — they haven’t experienced life outside of Enid. They live in their bubble,” she said.

Brund is a military brat, though, having grown up in Germany, Louisiana and all over the United States before graduating from Enid High School.

She said as a result, she’s noticed a gap in the air and space industry in Enid.

“So I think opening (students’) eyes to something that they’ve not really experienced, if it causes somebody to be passionate …,” she said. “That’s the goal of education. And the goal of this class is to create people in our society who are passionate about something beyond what they know already.”

Article & Photo by: Alexander Ewald Enid News & Eagle 9.8.21