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Great Sites for Teaching About ... Aviation

Great Sites Center

Each week, the Education World Great Sites for Teaching About ... page highlights Web sites to help educators work timely themes into their lessons. This week's sites are among the best on the Web for integrating aviation into your curriculum.

  1. Aviation Through the Ages
    This great site for elementary school children introduces major figures and events in aviation. It offers a time line of significant events in aviation history that begins with Icarus, circa 1000 B.C., and continues all the way up to the CL-415 Firebird. The site also presents short biographies of the Red Baron, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Chuck Yeager, which include links to further information, as well as a glossary and an extensive list of online and offline references. Compass icons denote in-depth Web-based resources and gear icons indicate experiments for students to try on their own.

  2. Celebrating the Evolution of Flight
    The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics presents this Shockwave-based site anticipating the centennial in 2003 of the Wright brothers' first flight. The comprehensive History of Flight section includes a time line, important events in aviation listed by country, and profiles of a dozen great aviators, from Da Vinci to Yeager. The most impressive part of the site, though, are the Click and Learn activities: The 1903 Wright Flyer Simulation, Puzzles & Games, Fun & Easy Experiments kids can try at home, and Interactive Activities, which include putting together a virtual airplane, learning the motions of a space shuttle, and manipulating the flight deck controls of a Boeing 777!

  3. Fly Girls
    Presented by the American Experience, this PBS site celebrates the role of women in American aviation history, from Earhart's 1937 disappearance to the Air Force's official honorable discharge of WASPs in 1979. The site includes maps and profiles of people and events along the way, as well as a Teacher's Guide that corresponds to the original film the Web site is based on. The Special Features section includes a virtual tour of a B-29, video clips of actual flights, and an excerpt from A WASP Among Eagles: A Woman Military Test Pilot in World War II, by Ann Baumgartner Carl.

  4. Helicopter History
    Here's a site dedicated solely to the history of helicopters, and it's full of fascinating facts. Click on the Featured tab at the top of the page and you'll see a comprehensive list of helicopters through the decades from around the world. There are personal stories on the site that you can screen and use with your students to include primary sources in their studies. And the News link will launch you into all the most recent (and archived) news items on helicopters. This is a fabulous site for secondary students wanting to learn how science has impacted culture in the last century.

  5. Knowble
    This wonderful site for elementary-aged kids presents Flash-based activities. In The Land of Knowble, the History of Flight section presents an entertaining look at how humans learned to master the skies. The How Planes Work section gives a very basic presentation of how air moves over and under a plane's wings to create a vacuum and subsequently allows planes to take off. Flight Safety talks to children about safely sitting and behaving while flying in a commercial airliner. Stuff includes links, cartoons, games, and activities, including directions for making a paper airplane version of a stealth fighter jet.

  6. Mach 1.0 and Beyond
    Subtitled Saluting Check Yeager and the X-1, this site launches an interactive show about the quest to break the sound barrier. The site provides explanations of concepts such as subsonic, transonic, and supersonic, and visitors can read the flight transcript from Yeager's historic mission on October 14, 1947. Though this is not an extensive site, it provides such a nice, clean presentation of this landmark moment in aviation history, it's definitely worth using as an introduction to the modern era of flight.

  7. The National Air and Space Museum
    The Web site of the popular National Air and Space Museum extends the museum's captivating exhibits to its online audience with a such displays as Exploring the Planets, The Apollo Program, African Americans in Aviation History, and Women in Aviation and Space History. In addition, the site provides online versions of some of the museum's Featured Exhibitions: Apollo to the Moon, Space Race, and How Things Fly.

  8. Vanished!
    NOVA takes an inside look at mysterious plane crashes on this enticing site. Students get to examine the case of the Stardust, which crashed in 1947, leaving behind one last, mysterious Morse code transmission. Students can tap out the code, study official reports on the incident, and come up with their own theories. Reading the Wreckage is an intriguing look at how investigators examine and infer clues from crash sites as Dave King explains the forensic detective work that takes place. Inside the Jet Stream is a first-class look at how the jet stream affects air flight, and the section on Mysterious Plane Crashes is sure to keep students enthralled. The Teacher's Guide is based on the original NOVA episode, which aired January 2001, but can be adapted for classroom use today. Links to other online resources help make this presentation a truly in-depth learning experience for students!

  9. Wayback -- Flight
    PBS presents this well-formatted Web site on the history of early aviation. The People to Know section on early aviators offers a very human look at some of the brave and daring people of the early 1900s. To make the lesson a contemporary experience, meet a modern-day barnstormer! Susan Dacy is an American Airlines pilot and a stunt flyer in her biplane! Add those pages to the Flight Features on barnstormers, the Wright brothers, and the perils of early air mail and you've got yourself an impressive site. Oh, and don't forget Eric Arnold's Joke Space!

  10. Wallops Flight Facility
    Located on the eastern shore of Virginia, Wallops is one of the oldest flight facilities in the country. To get a great taste of this historic location, start out by taking the Virtual Tour. It plays like a slide show with 35 frames of information on the history and current operations of the facility. On this site you can access a daily schedule of flights taking place at Wallops, view actual launches, and keep up with news and activities as they happen. The site also provides information on projects in progress. This site is perfect for secondary students researching the space program.

Article by Walter McKenzie
Education World®
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