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AOPA Foundation’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum earns important accreditation

STEM.org recognition validates AOPA’s efforts to introduce aviation skills, careers to high schoolers

Editor's note: This article was updated July 6 with a statement from the founder of STEM.org.

The AOPA Foundation’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum received two accreditation honors from the prestigious independent credentialing and education research organization STEM.org.

Photo by Chris Rose.

The high school curriculum and corresponding materials were vetted during a rigorous and thorough process, earning two Trustmarks that are indicative of meeting a range of standards set by STEM.org experts which include:

  • Develop critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills.
  • Promote science, technology, engineering, and math skills that prepare students for the future of aviation and aerospace.
  • Strengthen the STEM skills students need for twenty-first century careers.
  • Support the development of STEM skills future-focused employers desire.

STEM.org is the leading exclusive third-party validator of STEM books, videos, and other print and digital learning resources. Since 2001, its leadership has assisted with key initiatives that have been critical to the overall growth and proliferation of the movement, including work with the STEM Congressional Caucus. Other organizations that have received STEM.org Trustmarks include The Walt Disney Co., Staples, the NBA, and The New York Times.

“The AOPA's You Can Fly program exhibits true excellence and is leading the way in STEM education,” said Andrew B. Raupp, founder and executive director of STEM.org. “In thoroughly assessing the program and corresponding curriculum during the multiphase assessment process, our team was impressed with AOPA's STEM academic rigor combined with a devotion to support future pilots at every stage of their aviation journey. They provide students the resources to nurture the skills they need to think critically and succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

“The opportunity to become accredited through STEM.org is something that will elevate the AOPA Foundation’s curriculum to new heights,” said AOPA You Can Fly Program Executive Director Elizabeth Tennyson. “Many students don’t realize that being a pilot is an option for them and it really is very accessible. AOPA works hard to make it even more accessible and gives students the exposure and tools they need to pursue a career in aviation.”

As AOPA previously reported, “the science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum features six courses in two pathways—pilot and drones—for students in grades nine through 12 and can be used in public, private, charter, or parochial high schools. It is also available for home school co-op programs at the high school level. Schools may choose to use a single course or a four-year career and technical education program.”

More than 8,000 students participated in the AOPA Foundation’s STEM curriculum for the 2020-2021 school year. By the end of the two pathways, students have learned the material needed to pass the FAA private pilot or remote pilot knowledge tests.

The AOPA Foundation’s curriculum was used in more than 200 schools across 38 states in the 2020-2021 school year and will expand in the coming years. The curriculum is also attracting more students from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented throughout the aviation field, with 20 percent of the students in the curriculum being female, and 45 percent people of color.

The need for more professional pilots is expected to increase following a slow but steady recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic nearly crippled the airlines. According to the Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook, “As tens of thousands of pilots, technicians and cabin crew members reach retirement age over the next decade, educational outreach and career pathway programs will be essential to inspiring and recruiting the next generation.” The outlook predicts that North America alone will need more than 200,000 pilots between 2020 and 2039. According to FAA data, the United States has seen a 36-percent increase in student pilot certificate issuances between 2016 and 2020 and a 41-percent increase in private pilots within the same time period.

Schools that use the AOPA Foundation’s curriculum are accepted through an application process, and schools interested in applying for the 2022-2023 school year are encouraged to contact AOPA’s high school curriculum specialists. The curriculum is provided to schools for free because of generous donations made to the AOPA Foundation.

The You Can Fly program, which produces the curriculum and numerous other initiatives designed to make flying more accessible and affordable, is funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit www.aopafoundation.org/donate.

Jennifer Non

Jennifer Non

Senior Manager of Media Relations and Public Affairs
AOPA Senior Manager of Media Relations and Public Affairs, Jennifer Non joined AOPA in 2017. A former traffic reporter turned media relations specialist, and native Washingtonian, she enjoys traveling and is working toward her private pilot certificate. She was recently honored by Ragan Communications and PR Daily with a Top Women in Communications Award, in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion category and is also a member of the Board of Nominations for the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Topics: You Can Fly, AOPA Foundation, Training and Safety

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