- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Once a week for a month, a group of Dr. James Craik Elementary School students meets to dream about the space and stars while creating model airplanes that might soar to those heights.
OK, maybe not those heights exactly, but the point of the club is to introduce students who already have a burgeoning interest in airplanes and air travel to learn more about the industry from professional aeronautical engineers with the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Naval Support Facility, Indian Head, Dave Fuller and Bryan Kilikewich, and the school’s science teacher, Jennifer Norris.
“The kids are really into it,” said Norris, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math resource teacher at Craik, who founded the model airplane club with Fuller (a rocketry club is also a draw at the school). “We just want to get them excited. ... Creativity is what is fueling power in this country. And the ability to work with professionals is going to spark their interest.”
Because elementary school kids aren’t allowed to use X-Acto knives, commercial model airplane kits are out.
Instead, the students, about 26 of them, work from sets designed by Fuller that are held together with glue and rubber bands.
“We want to plant the seed,” Fuller said, adding that television, computers and video games have seemed to divert interest from creating. “They need to start doing stuff with their hands. It’s always good to get your hands on things. Some people learn better that way. You can learn a lot from hobbies.”
Although the club meets before school, the early hours don’t bother the kids who huddle around tables, battling to loosen the tops of glue sticks, share ideas and swap stories.
“I’m up before the sun, that’s me,” said Mark Clevenger, 9, who said he builds models in his spare time.
He joined the model airplane club and the rocketry club because “they sounded fun.”
And he is interested in airplanes for a good reason.
“I don’t like boats,” he said. “I get seasick.”
“When I was little, I always liked science,” said 9-year-old Natalie Fox. The model airplane club piqued her interest because she’s always on the lookout for something new to occupy her time.
“I like interesting stuff, so I just join interesting groups,” she explained. “Whatever you’re interested in, just go for it and it could be fun.”
Norris, who applied for and received a STEM grant from Northrop Grumman, a defense technology company, to fund the clubs, is helped with it by fourth-grade teacher Alexis Eaton and second-grade teacher Caitlin Kilty.
“There is a huge push into STEM education,” said Norris, adding that there just isn’t enough time in a day to participate in as many hands-on projects like building rockets and model airplanes. “Kids this young, they like to use their hands; they like to make things. And there is no competition here; it’s just natural enjoyment.”
The club allows its members to explore a subject they already think is cool.
“[Planes] do something that mankind thought was impossible,” said Robert Parker, 11, who dreams of being an astronaut.
“I like hanging out around planes,” added Jack Blocker, 10. “And I want to know more about them.”