Midland airport hosts elementary students for Flight Night learning event

MIDLAND — Eighth-grader Preston Komara found his anticipated career path in aviation at the beginning of his K-12 education on a vacation to Disney World.

Now, as a Chief Science Officer at Jefferson Middle School, he helps connect elementary students to STEM learning experiences in the Midland Public School District and Great Lakes Bay Region during the Flight Night event series.

“I really want to keep my passion for aviation going, because it’s amazing how it all works,” Komara said. “It comes easy to learn. If you look in a cockpit, you see tons and tons of buttons… It’s like driving a car, but really you’re flying.”

Flight Night is an educational event for elementary students, typically third through fifth grade, where they can leisurely learn about the science and careers of flight and aviation.

Komara and Braeden Oehring from Freeland Middle School are regional neighbors who have connected through the Chief Science Officer Program, which is an international network of students who advocate for STEM experiences and learning. This fall event, which was the first time the two took the lead, welcomed more than 200 students and family members of the Woodcrest Elementary School community.

According to Jen Servoss, Midland Public Schools curriculum specialist for elementary instruction, Flight Night directly aligns with Project Lead the Way, an elementary STEM curriculum. Woodcrest Principal Jeffrey Pennex shared praise for the hard work and commitment of the Chief Science Officers.

“I hope they walk away at least learning one thing about aviation,” Komara said.

“They actually do activities and it’s hands-on,” Oehring added, saying there are fun opportunities built within the plans.

Last spring, Plymouth students followed Central Park, Siebert and Adams elementary schools. This spring, the Chief Science partners hope to invite Chestnut Hill students.

Students were encouraged to board at least ten learning stations to access lesson materials presented by volunteers. Aviation professionals, including pilots, were also on hand to interact with and learn from. During each event, planes conduct touch-and-gos to display flight above the student attendees.

In addition to multiple airplanes, there were also several other interesting forms of aircraft, such as gyrocopters, helicopters including an actual med-flight, and drones. The association chapter provided simulation equipment for students to experience flying near the municipal airport.

The Flight Night tradition began with Ava Nelson, recent Dow High graduate, to offer the community-scaled educational event. Her lesson plans, developed through the STEM program, will continue with the biannual events hosted at Midland’s Jack Barstow Municipal Airport in partnership with the Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 1093 and elementary schools from Midland.

Komara has yet to fly a plane, or a car. However, through the student-focused opportunity, he said the project-based practice helped him make real-world connections.

“You see STEM in your everyday life,” he said.

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