Build A Plane, a non-profit organization that donates airplanes to schools, has teamed with the Thomas W. Wathen Foundation at Flabob Airport in Riverside, Calif. The new partnership is committed to developing world-class aviation education curricula to motivate students to learn science, technology, engineering and math, say officials with both organizations.
“It’s really a dream come true for us,” says Build A Plane’s Lyn Freeman, who is now director of educational development for the Wathen Foundation. “The goals of the Wathen Foundation are in perfect alignment with Build A Plane’s, and I felt this was a once in a life opportunity.” The Wathen Foundation recently started an aviation charter high school. It also hosts Air Academy, where young people get a week-long immersion into aviation, a variety of outreach programs to local schools, grades K-12, intergenerational Elderhostels where grandchildren and grandparents share aviation experiences, as well as an existing Build A Plane program in which students are refurbishing a Stinson 108 that they will ultimately fly. Build A Plane has arranged for more than 30 schools across the United States to receive airplanes to teach aircraft construction and restoration. Additional projects are underway in Nigeria, India and England, with others soon to follow in Russia, South America and Greenland.
Build A Plane and the Wathen Foundation are attracting support from leading aviation and aerospace companies. Cessna president and CEO Jack Pelton has joined the Build A Plane board of directors, along with Alan Klapmeier, co-founder and CEO of Cirrus Design, aerobatics champion Patty Wagstaff, Lycoming Vice President Ian Walsh, EAA vice president Dr. Lee Siudzinski, CNN anchor Miles O’Brien and many others.
“Aviation is a great motivational hook to teach kids all kinds of things,” Freeman said. “Kids love airplanes. If we can use that natural attraction to inspire them to learn, then that’s good for everybody. And the more people we can expose to aviation at an early age, the more people will ultimately choose aviation, as a sport or a career, from engineering, to rocket science to aircraft maintenance. And that’s a real win for everybody.”
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