21st-century skills take flight in Texas

by perducoeducation

As a teacher, you’re all about giving your students the tools and knowledge for a successful career. It’s up to them to take advantage of the opportunities they’re presented to make it happen. How satisfying is it to see a spark ignited in your student that could lead them on this path? Charles Richardson from Lancaster ISD south of Dallas knows.

Charles gives his students the tools and knowledge by utilizing hands-on activities in his Pitsco STEM lab. “The lab is like a slingshot – it gets them ready. And if a kid thinks they can do something, guess what they do? They go and do it.”

He also encourages students to do extracurricular activities such as Technology Student Association (TSA) competitions but strongly believes the labs are where the sparks begin. For example, he heads up a lab course titled Principles of Applied Engineering. Members of a STEM club encouraged by the course recently took advantage of an opportunity to use the skills they learned to restore an airplane used for Wings of Hope humanitarian missions.


Wings of Hope has been involved in worldwide humanitarian missions since 1962, flying much-needed supplies to remote areas in Belize, India, Papua New Guinea, and Zambia, to name a few. They enable poor communities, providing basic resources to aide with health, education, economic opportunity, and food security (Wings of Hope).

Dedicated STEM club members worked on the Cessna 182 single-engine airplane at the Lancaster Regional Airport for several months with the help of mentors, including the owner/engineer of Cross Country Aviation. According to Charles, “The kids took it all apart to get it ready to be refurbished. The engine was sent off to the engine shop. Then when it came back, they put it all back together – wings and everything – to make it flight ready.”


Not long after the unveiling, the newly refurbished plane flew to Nicaragua on its first mission. “We think the benefits of the program are twofold for the students,” said Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich. “Number one is obviously the hands-on STEM learning they experience as they work on the plane. Number two is the service learning aspect” (Focus Daily News).

Besides students gaining practical experience, preconceived notions of gender roles were disproved. “It really does not matter if you are a girl or a guy, you are still a person. If you want to be a mechanical engineer, building planes or working on cars, you can do it,” said Elizabeth, a 10th grader.


Lancaster ISD’s Executive Director of Academics and Innovation Kyndra Johnson said the Pitsco STEM labs have been key to opening the eyes of female and male students alike to the career possibilities that lie ahead. “Authentic learning activities in STEM subjects, coupled with students’ matriculation through our STEM labs is significantly important, not only in projects such as our recent aircraft build, but also in their future pursuits beyond graduation.”

This airplane restoration is an ideal real-world project that enhances students’ STEM lab experience. And it’s great to see the confidence they gain when enabled to learn how to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, and think critically.

Read the full article about this project.

Lancaster ISD STEM Students Build Airplane For Wings Of Hope Missions
Wings of Hope


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