Children’s activity book brings aviation sciences to life

Sandi Cooper, professor and coordinator of the mathematics education department (left) and Suzanne Nesmith (right), Baylor School of Education Associate Dean, helped create an activity booklet for children about aviation sciences. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist

By Cameron Bocanegra | Reporter

Baylor’s Institute for Air Science reached out to Baylor’s School of Education in early February to collaborate in making an activity booklet that would entertain and enlighten children about aviation sciences.

The project had dragged on for several semesters, being passed between student workers with the task of finding and creating the activities. Kelley Oliver, the institute’s project coordinator and office manager, expressed her concerns over the dilemma to her assistant director, Tim Compton, who advised she reach out to the education department.

A project like this needed multiple minds working together in order to create a kid-friendly and educational tool that still met all of Texas’ educational standards. Dr. Suzanne Nesmith, Associate Dean of the Baylor School of Education and Dr. Sandi Cooper, professor and coordinator of the mathematics education program, are both experts in elementary education as they also included the students from their graduate course, STEM Teaching and Learning with Young Children in the project.

“We get a good amount of traffic at our air show booths, but for years the only inexpensive activity we had was building and coloring wood gliders,” Oliver said. “I wanted to find a way to teach kids about aviation while keeping them excited.”

That is where the creativity of the elementary experts came in. They had to create plausible activities that were logical to a child. Between the educators and Oliver, they were on their way to making a 36-page book that includes interactive coloring pages and information about airplane parts, aviation tools, history and famous aviators.

There were, of course, challenges to putting the creative ideas into a tangible activity form.

“It is one thing to say an activity would be great to do in a classroom with a teacher, but it is entirely different when there is a child and expecting them to complete it on their own” Cooper said. “It made us really think.”

The team had to consider how to spark the interest of children and their parents in order to show them that caring about science and math does not have to wait until high school.

“How do you communicate through a booklet that is just a quick activity for an intrigued kid at an airshow?” Nesmith said. “We really wanted to plant the seed of some early science and math concepts while promoting the idea for young children that they can really like math or science.”

It was a long process of editing ideas between the aviation institute and the education department, along with publishers, graphic designers and graduate students. Everyone involved was assigned their own section. An aviation sciences alumnus even provided the cover artwork.

Since it was completed, it has been used in elementary schools and airshows.

“To make it official, shipment of books were just sent to a school in San Antonio last year,” Oliver said.