“Flight Academy” visits planetarium


This was last year’s pizza party for the students who were involved in “Flight Academy.”

Maddy Pincin, Reporter

During the week of Feb 26, 2018, a group called “Flight Academy” went on a field trip they earned to the high school to see an astronomy show.

The “Flight Academy” is a group of students who are involved in a non-fiction reading program with Justina McCaulley and Sonya DeArmitt. DeArmitt’s students must read anywhere from three to five non-fiction texts to qualify for each visit.

“I had to read five books to be able to go,” seventh grader Ethan Wertz said.

“Ms. McCaulley and I created the idea last year as we applied for an Altoona Area School District Foundation “Venture Grant”.  Drs. Jonathan and Barbara Thaler funded our first grant, which was done with Mr. Doug Simmons as the cooperating teacher in 2016-2017.  Due to the success, and overall low cost of Flight Academy, Ms. McCaulley and I kept it going this year and were excited to welcome Ms. DeArmitt to the team, “ Science and Planetarium Director James Krug said.

DeArmitt was a new team member and has contributed for her first time.

“Ms. McCaulley and Ms. DeArmitt decide on the eligible AAJHS grades each year.  I believe they are focusing only on seventh grade students this year. This year, the teachers also focused on students that sometimes struggle with reading or do not find reading normally enjoyable.  If we can show students that truly is an adventure, they will be willing to do more of it on their own,” Krug said.

McCaulley and DeArmitt are trying to bring reading into students lives more and more, having the students read and giving them a reward might help make the students realize they might enjoy reading.

“Ms. McCaulley helps the students in the AAJHS library locate good reads, especially those emphasizing earth and space science, and space travel.  Students track their progress on sheets Ms. McCaulley maintains for them,” Mr.Krug said.

The students who go into the “Flight Academy” are recommended to read books based on what they are going to see so they have more information on what they will observe. Understanding what they are going to see will make more sense when they are watching.

“Qualified students then visit the Planetarium for special sky shows.  The first time they visit, they earn their Flight Academy Certificate of Achievement, along with their first “rank” button.

Visit 1- “Flight Wings” button

Visit 2- “Mission Specialist” button

Visit 3- “Commander” button

This program is cumulative, so only the students who attend for all 3 visits earn the rank of Commander. Students also receive yummy bags of popcorn and bottles of water for each visit, and last year we even held a pizza party for our final trip,” Krug said.