August 20, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The founder, chair, and president of the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide has launched a fundraising campaign for Kids Airbridge, a program that will bridge children in North America and Africa with lessons covering aviation history, geography, science, and art.
Mireille Goyer says she is a true believer in the benefits of diversity and an advocate for increasing diversity in aviation. “One of my ex-student pilots told me about his plans to fly along the Aérospostale route from France to Senegal with the Aéroclub Latécoère, a not-for-profit association that handles the logistics of flights along the famous route envisioned by Pierre Georges Latécoère in order to raise money to support schools along the route,” she said.
Goyer said she saw an opportunity to go a step further with the concept and involve kids in a positive manner with the very spirit that led to the birth of aviation. “Inspired by the 'city twinning' model responsible for not only exchanges but also the decrease of wars in Europe, I thought that a meaningful flight (carrying children’s gifts to each other) could be used to build an airbridge between kids of very different backgrounds and culture so that they could learn how different and similar they are as they work on common academic subjects,” she said.
Kids Airbridge chose to connect children in North America and Africa for two reasons, said Goyer. “There’s a dramatic difference in resources and approaches to life, and charity starts at home,” she said. “Both Victoria [Neuville Zajko] and I live in North America and we both believe in affecting the communities we live in. We also want to be able to visit the airbridge classes on both continents, because closer to home lowers the cost without lowering the impact.”
As far as lesson plans go, aviation is far too often depicted as a one-dimensional activity—technical, said Goyer. “Which I believe is one of the reasons that the pool of potential pilots is decreasing. Through this initiative, I would like to touch kids at an early age and impart on them that aviation feeds the mind on multiple levels,” she said. “When it comes to aviation history, there is much inspiration of dreaming big and overcoming adversity embedded in it, yet, aviation history is rarely a part of standard academic curriculums.”
As an instructional designer and a flight instructor, Goyer said, experiential education is far more effective than “telling and showing” education. “As an instructor, I pride myself in aiming to never demonstrate a maneuver because I know that, if I can guide a student to discover how to do by him or herself, the learning is immediate and lasting,” she said, noting she used a similar technique when launching the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week initiative.
The first project will be to build a paper aircraft and watch the airbridge being “built” on the website where the path of the paper aircraft will be updated daily, along with cultural anecdotes and daily flight quizzes to answer, said Goyer. “We are hoping to reward the top academic achievers with discovery flights when we reach them,” she said.
Throughout the rest of the academic year, academic assignments with a deadline will be posted for each airbridge. “Each classroom will post their method and their outcome in the website section reserved to the airbridge under the guidance of their teacher,” said Goyer. “An online discussion including thoughts and explanations will follow to encourage deeper understanding between the kids and foster learning.”
Classrooms will be chosen by the Aéroclub Latécoère along the Aéropostale route, said Goyer. “Sponsors in North America have the option to select a classroom that they sponsor. Remaining classrooms will be selected by Victoria and I based on motivation letters from teachers,” she said.
The plan is to set up 10 airbridges initially—20 classes, 10 on each continents for a total of approximately 1,000 children, said Goyer. “We have estimated a cost of $25,000, $2,500 per airbridge or $25 per child, to fund the implementation of the website which includes an informational and flight following side in addition to the kid collaborating secure section, some tangible support for the schools in Africa, and travel expenses,” she said.
Goyer is using an Indiegogo campaign, which expires Aug. 23, to raise the money for the program. “We have contacted aviation and local community stakeholders and will continue to do so until we raise sufficient funds to proceed.”
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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