Students soaring through program

Dec. 28, 2013 @ 03:37 PM

Staff members of the Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy program at New Hope Elementary School are making plans for the winter session.

Principal Harold Thompson said the fall session was very successful.

Doris Swann, coordinator of the New Hope SEMAA program, said, “We’re combining the winter and spring sessions because of funding.”

Registration for the winter/spring session will take place after school resumes in January.

“Last fall, we had first- and second-graders,” Swann said. “This time we’ll have third- and fourth-graders.”

She is pleased at the response from the students and the parents.

“The kids are really interested,” Swann said. “I love it. They love it.”

That reaction is echoed by Kenya Thrower, whose son Jaden took part in the program during the fall.

“He really enjoyed it. He came home bubbling over,” Thrower said. “It’s given him a chance to explore the moon and asteroids. Now he tells me, ‘That’s a waning moon. That’s a new moon.’ It stays with him.”

Those astronomy lessons took hold also with Amaria Thompson. Her grandmother, Roberta Thompson, said Amaria loved it.

“She could tell me all about the moon and the stars,” Roberta Thompson said.

SEMAA was implemented in 1993 in Ohio to increase the participation of under-represented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

During the fall, the program at New Hope met twice a week after school.

The curriculum, developed by the National Air and Space Agency, involves the students in hands-on exploration of concepts they encounter in the classroom.

At the end of the fall session, the program staged a fly-in at the Oxford-Henderson Airport.

“Nine pilots donated their time and planes,” Swann said. “The kids loved it.”

One of those pilots was Jim Dukeman, vice president of the Apex chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The organization sponsors the Young Eagles program, designed to educate children about aviation.

“They do a really good job at the school,” Dukeman said. “The kids enjoyed their flights. They got a big kick out of seeing how little the cars look. They saw the lake. Most wanted another ride.”

Mike Kellogg, manager of the Oxford-Henderson Airport, said the fly-in was very impressive.

“They took 60-some kids on 23 flights in five planes,” Kellogg said.

Swann said funding for the SEMAA program has limited the number of sessions that can be provided.

“We get funding from Warren County and NASA,” she said. “We’d like to get some from Vance County.”

The SEMAA program is intended to stimulate students’ curiosity and raise their career aspirations. Dukeman is convinced exposure to SEMAA and airplanes can have that kind of impact.

“We’ve turned some kids around,” Dukeman said.

He told of one student who was making C’s and D’s. After participating in a fly-in, he became an honor student and eventually went on to college.

“One little plane ride did it,” Dukeman said.


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