New Haven students soar with summer math program!

Cick here for photos of the model planes made at "New Haven Soars" from the New Haven Register. .
Students Take Flight in New Summer Program
By Virginia Calistro
New Haven Public Schools Communications Intern
An exciting new summer program has quite literally taken off this month at East Rock Community Magnet School.
“New Haven Soars,” the creation of district math supervisor Kenneth Mathews and math instructional coach Scott Raffone, is a city-wide program in which students in grades six through eight hone their math and literacy skills by working on projects designed around flight.
“It’s not your traditional summer school,” explained program supervisor Robert Durand.
Instruction in this interactive program extends far beyond the classroom. After reading about mankind’s fascination with getting airborne, beginning with the story of Icarus and ending with non-fiction accounts about the history of airplanes, students break into small teams to craft flying creations of their own.
The first of these creations was the classic paper airplane. Students tried out the traditional design, then made small adjustments in an attempt to construct the furthest flying model. Seventh grader Kaymond Quattlebaum designed the winning plane, which flew an impressive 49 feet.
Eager participants are learning the key to soaring is careful consideration of the four forces of flight: thrust, drag, lift and weight. If their models aren’t immediately successful each is forced to pause and discern which factor needs adjustment.
Xaviel Roman practiced this problem solving process during the second week, when students built gliders using wood, rubber bands, and plastic propellers.
“My glider wasn’t weighted properly,” said Roman. “After I fixed the balance, it could fly much better.”
Durand and fellow program director Richard Cordaway have been pleased with the level of enthusiasm with which the middle school pupils have completed their projects.
“They see the flight, get excited, then tweak their design,” Durand explained. “Some have even been taking their planes home and re-working them.”
Part of the program’s early success can be attributed to the level of support and instruction students have received from the directors, teachers, and paraprofessionals on site. Roughly 25-30% of the near hundred participants are enrolled in special education and have enjoyed the same level of engagement as other students.
In the final weeks of the program, students are working carefully on more sophisticated planes using blocks of Styrofoam and other household materials. The students use precise measurements to make careful designs and teachers or paraprofessionals prepare the materials.
“Safety, of course, comes first,” emphasized Cordaway.
Planes will then be plugged into power towers and flown before parents during an open house to cap things off for the pilot program, which was designed to encourage kids to pursue careers in science, engineering, math and technology.
“We’ve gotten students who didn’t even know they were interested in those subjects to really get excited about potential careers,” said Durand.
Quattlebaum, who is designing his plane with a curved tail piece for improved lift, and Roman, who experimentally installed extra propellers on his glider, serve as two such examples of students for whom interest in STEM subjects has been piqued.
With this accomplishment in mind, Cordaway and Durand said they have already begun brainstorming for next year. In consideration is a possible shift to rocketry, depending on costs. Either way, it is evident New Haven Soars is capable of providing an innovative boost to students along their academic paths to success.