Just days before more than 5,000 fifth-graders descend upon Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana for a one-of-kind field trip, one of their teachers was treated to a sneak preview from a unique perspective; the rear seat of an F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter.
Bradley Ward, the 2016 Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Citywide Teacher of the Year, was treated to a 45 minute demonstration flight by The United States Navy Blue Angels. Ward, a fifth-grade teacher at Rosemont Forest Elementary was asked how he would describe his experience to his class.
“I won’t,” he said laughing. “I’ll try, but it will be impossible. I wouldn’t know how to explain it. It’s something you have to experience. The weight pushing down on the chest, we talk about that in class, force and gravity, so to have that experience and to kind of share that makes it a much more relevant discussion.”
Friday, Sept. 9, Ward and every VBCPS fifth-grade class will attend a special Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Lab Day, part of the annual NAS Oceana Air Show.
“This is going to be a great opportunity, this is going to be the largest STEM laboratory in the entire United States,” said Cdr. Shaun Bellemare, NAS Oceana liaison to the event. “We’re really excited about this event and having students get hands-on with all kinds of different robotics and, patrol boats as well as meeting Blue Angels pilots. Not only are they interacting with all these STEM displays, but they will be surrounded by airplanes, static displays and also airplanes flying right in front of them.”
Students will attend the STEM Lab Day free of charge as the result of a partnership between NAS Oceana, the school division and community partners.
Ward’s fifth-graders are already excited about the opportunity. “It’s fun, you don’t have to hype them up, they’re so ready for it.” One other thing his students will know is that he flew sky high on board with a Blue Angel.
“Again, I think about the relevance,” Ward continued. “We talk about this in class: engineering, STEM design, the science and math behind everything we’re doing. And to be able to come here and touch it and see it and talk to people who do this every day and I can imagine the conversations when we get back to school about wanting to be pilots when they grow up.”
Ward, 2015 VBCPS Citywide Teacher of the Year Bevin Reinen and WTKR New Channel 3 reporter Kim Cung were selected for flights with the Blue Angels as part of the squadron’s Key Influencer (KI) program. The KI program selects individuals who shape attitudes and opinions of youth in their communities.
The 2016 NAS Oceana Air Show is scheduled for Sept. 10 to Sept. 11 and is open to the public. For more information, visit oceanaairshow.com.