Almost two decades into the 21st century the big question is not “Why STEAM?” It’s “How STEAM?”

How do over-scheduled educators find STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs that meet curriculum standards, engage students, encourage critical thinking, are available on demand, don’t require grant-writing, have a minimum of paperwork and, oh-by-the-way meet the goal of preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet?

Fortunately educators have a partner in public and private sector employers who also recognize the need for a specialized future workforce and talent pool from which to hire. Many of these entities have invested heavily in dynamic and, in some cases, fully funded STEAM programs.

The 75-year-old Civil Air Patrol (CAP) offers one such program. Based on the diverse field of aerospace science, CAP’s fully-funded education program offers educators more than 40 curricula products plus ten interactive STEAM kits embracing the full spectrum of flight. In fact, educators who become CAP aerospace education members (AEM) can even take an orientation flight in one of CAP’s single-engine Cessna aircraft.

History of Civil Air Patrol Civil Air Patrol has a long history of identifying needs and providing proactive solutions. In the late 1930s, then-New Jersey State Aviation Director Gill Robb Wilson personally observed German preparations for war and realized the need to organize civilian pilots to supplement America’s unprepared military in helping defend the United States. The Civil Air Patrol was formed on Dec. 1, 1941, just one week prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Three months later, Coastal Patrol Base 1 flew out of Bader Field, Atlantic City with two more bases established at Rehoboth Beach, DE, and Lantana, FL as part of a 90-day experiment.

The successes from those early flights led to nationwide operations, with private, single-engine pilots logging more than 500,000 flight hours and sinking two enemy submarines during World War II. CAP pilots also reported 91 ships in distress and played a key role in rescuing 363 survivors of U-boat attacks. In all 21 bases were created, stretching from Maine to Mexico, before CAP’s antisubmarine mission ended in 1943.

Today the Civil Air Patrol is the all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary and the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. With its three-fold mission of aerospace education, emergency services and cadet programs, CAP has a fleet of 550 aircraft and 55,000 volunteers nationally. It performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. The New Jersey Wing boasts 23 squadrons, five aircraft and more than 1,200 volunteer adult and cadet youth members.

CAP’s Aerospace Education Member Program CAP’s AEM program helps prepare American citizens to meet the challenges of a sophisticated, global aerospace society and understand its related issues. Teaching ordinary subjects in extraordinary ways, CAP helps educators prepare American citizens to meet the challenges of a sophisticated, global aerospace society and understand its related issues.

In 2014, CAP AEM Kathy Francis, a middle school science teacher at the former St. Denis School in Manasquan, took part in a program that involved doing hands-on aviation and space-related activities with her students.

She completed three separate programs with her middle school students. Requirements were simple; complete six aerospace activities and one two-hour or longer field experience. In her case, she took students on a tour of JBMDL and a trip to Lakewood Airport. Her efforts earned her school a beautiful wooden plaque plus certificates for each of her students along with New Jersey Wing’s 2014 Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year Award.

Now at St. Catharine School in Spring Lake, Francis currently serves as a CAP aerospace education officer working on the NJ Wing staff as the director of aerospace education/external programs. In March, Capt. Kathy Francis, CAP received the 2016 Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year Award for CAP’s entire Northeast Region, which spans nine states.

The Civil Air Patrol promotes and supports aerospace education, both for its own members and the general public. Aerospace Education Membership is a special category of Civil Air Patrol. It is open to any reputable individual, school, or organization that has an interest in supporting CAP’s Aerospace Education Program. AEMs do not wear CAP uniforms, hold a CAP grade, attend meetings or participate in the senior member program. The cost for participation is $35.

AEM members have access to a tremendous amount of free STEAM resources and support. A partial list is highlighted below.

Educational Materials

CAP offers more than 40 printed educational materials covering Model Rocketry and Model RC Aircraft, Introduction to Robotics, Introduction to Cybersecurity, Astronomy, Middle School Life and Physical Science, and more. (Coming in 2017: Tuskegee Airmen and Women in Aviation Volumes 1 & 2.)

K-12 STEAM Kits

  • Microsoft X Flight Simulator and Hardware
  • Calypso RC Model Aircraft & Real Flight RC Simulator
  • Robotics (Robotic Arm Kit)
  • Rocketry (Estes Alpha Rockets, Launcher, & Engines)
  • Astronomy (Celestron Telescope)
  • Quad Lugs RC Quad Copter Kit (Includes a Spektrum DX 5 transmitter)
  • Weather Station (Acu-Rite Professional Weather Station)
  • Hydraulic Engineering (Pathfinders Hydraulics 4-in1 Pack)
  • Raspberry Pi Computer Kit
  • Ready to Fly Blade Nano RTF Quadcopter
  • Coming soon: Bridge Building, Renewable Energy, Snap Circuits, Robotic Coding (Sphero & Bee-Bots)

K-6 Aerospace Connection in Education (ACE) Program

  • A curriculum guide of 21 aerospace-themed, national academic standards-driven lessons for your grade level. (Lessons are divided into nine academic lessons, six character lessons, and six physical fitness lessons.)
  • A classroom set of aerospace manipulative items that relate to one of the lessons for each grade level
  • Program designed for schools/teachers to implement during the school day
  • Can be implemented in informal, structured after-school programs
  • Provides engaging, meaningful cross-curricular aerospace lessons that support STEM
  • Promotes good character and physical fitness
  • Helps foster good-natured and healthy citizens

K-12 Aerospace Excellence in Education (AEX) Award Program

  • AEX participants receive numerous full-color books that feature standards-driven aerospace/STEM activities conducted in schools, youth organizations, community events, or museums.
  • Projects involve readily available, low-cost materials
  • Complete six aerospace/STEM activities and one two-hour or longer field experience to earn beautiful wooden teacher plaque plus color certificates for all students involved