Denbigh Aviation Academy director shares lessons learned there in new book
August 7, 2015 5:44pm | Newport News, VA
Local educator Aaron Smith’s new book is designed to show other communities how to intertwine their schools and local resources to get students skilled for careers.
Smith pulled from his four years as director of the Denbigh High School Aviation Academy in Newport News to write “Awakening Your STEM School: Assuring a Job-Ready Workforce.” The Aviation Academy is a Newport News Public Schools’ program that uses hands-on learning to teach the fields of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.
Smith said that after his first year at the academy, he started noticing educational opportunities he wanted to share. He jotted down notes, and put them together at night or early in the morning over three years.
He collaborated on the book with local retired public relations executive Bud Ramey. The text is available from Koehler Books.
The book contains 44 ideas and actions for educators, and more than 300 tips. But Smith said it really can be informational for lots of different groups because ultimately preparing students for the workforce bridges various of parts of the community.
“It can be for teachers because it is a blue-print for them to change their magnet into an elite STEM site,” Smith said. “It is for community partners. It is for businesses because a lot of times businesses don’t know how to help. And schools often think that money’s the first thing that they should be asking for, and it’s not necessarily the first thing.
“You need to figure out what is it they can help you with. And NASA’s a perfect example. With their subject matter and professionalism, that’s just one experience that we’ve been able to tie in wonderfully because they’re doing true state-of-the-art stuff that we want to replicate here.”
Information is included on a variety of topics from to dealing with grants to increasing publicity, as well as more educational type tips to boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills in students, which are “just two of the things that we often hear from around the world, that kids often fall short on,” Smith said.
He is already percolating an idea for his next project, but for now is getting word out about his work on improving STEM in schools.
“It truly can help make a difference in schools; it can truly make a difference in communities,” Smith said. “And it keeps kids in mind because kids are truly our most precious resource. And by working together, everybody has a part and a responsibility in this.
“So I’m hoping that they will understand how they can not only work with their area, but help others as well to bridge it. Because I don’t want more towns, more cities to lose opportunities. And we’ve got to help do that together.
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-247-4644.
More Information About The Book
Awakening your STEM School: 44 Ideas and Actions for Educators. More Than 300 Tips for Success and reflects on Dr. Smith’s 18 years serving middle, high and college students. Written with Bud Ramey, the book highlights Dr. Smith’s experiences as a math teacher combined with real world experiences with NASA that helped us STEM development and implementation at Aviation Academy.
Get the first two chapters here!
Awakening Your STEM Chaps. 1-2
Order your book or e-book now
Creating STEM schools is not yet an exact science. Feeling our way down this path, we awaken to the fact that this experience seems different. Not as familiar to us, the way is not clearly marked. Presidential goals for the nation are published. States are drawing up Visions, funding initiatives. School systems are raising the STEM flag.
Awakening Your STEM School just for teachers, principals and business leaders who are daily cobbling together their STEM school, seeking inspiration and valuable suggestions. A bright, informative narrative, here are actionable ideas – proven to be very successful, evolving a pioneering STEM school surrounded by breathtaking technology. Awaken the faculty, the business community and the students to the amazing transformation that awaits with STEM schools.
The school from which the book is centered around is located in the old terminal building of a major international airport, surrounded by the high technology of modern aviation. The foresight of local educators choosing this location of this Aviation magnet STEM school contributed to its early pioneering transformation over 15 years ago.
The neighborhood is surrounded by some of the most amazing technology on earth. Students interact with these high technology employers regularly. Local community leaders constantly advance STEM education to meet the needs for candidates for this high-tech workplace. NASA Langley Research Center, Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command and Canon Virginia surround this Academy.
The approach is simple and focused. Bring industry to the school where the culture and curriculum are integrated to model real world applications. Make your actions deliberate and focused on the students. Enable the teachers and faculty to become inspired, playing key roles in the planning and implementation.
Just remember, no matter where a school or program is in the advancement toward STEM education, the catalyst for transformation is already there – residing in the heart of the teachers and leadership.