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East Hartford Fourth Graders Take Part in Pratt & Whitney-sponsored SOAR for Science Program at New England Air Museum

By Barbara Bresnahan | Correspondent
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

For over a dozen years now, Pratt & Whitney has supported East Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools participation in the New England Air Museum's SOAR for Science program. The program teaches students specific concepts of flight through discussion, demonstration and hands-on activity.

"Currently all grade-four classrooms in the district attend this Pratt & Whitney grant-funded program, which includes transportation," said Melissa Gavarrino, secondary curriculum supervisor in science for East Hartford Public Schools.

To prepare for the trip, students do a pre-activity prior to visiting the museum.

"The trip is aligned with the grade-four 'forces and motion' unit," said Gavarrino.

Last month, four trips were made to the museum.

"In November, our primary focus was to get kids excited by flight, educate them on the four forces of flight - gravity, drag, thrust and lift - and give them a good narrative tour of our three main hangars," explained Anthony Simeone, a SOAR educator at the museum.

In what he described as the "Plane Facts," Simeone said that SOAR educators like to introduce a variety of aircraft and some very important pilots.

"The tour is sprinkled with intermittent facts about the Wasp engine that was developed by Pratt & Whitney and looking at and discussing an inside view of a working Pratt engine," said Simeone.

Of the variety of aircraft that had Hockanum Elementary School students enthralled on their Nov. 21 visit was a Lockhead multi-engine plane powered by two Pratt & Whitney engines, which is a sister ship to Amelia Earhart's plane that disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during her attempted around-the-world flight of 1937. Images of Earhart and a flight map seemed to captivate the students.

A "pusher," built and flown by a 17-year old from Connecticut in 1912, was presented by Caroline d'Otreppe, the director of Educational Programming at the museum. The plane, which was built in the teenager's family barn and was once flown at the Berlin Fair Grounds, was a highlight of the morning, as were a 1942 Goodyear control car from a Navy airship (blimp), and the Sikorsky Flying Boat "Excambian," also from 1942, which was used for non-stop commercial transatlantic passenger service.

"We usually end the tour having the students construct and fly a straw glider for distance," said Simeone.

"I truly believe that the overall experience is both eye-opening and exciting for students, many of whom have never seen aircraft up close and personal. Seeing the many aircraft and doing the hands-on glider construction are highlights for these students."

The New England Air Museum is committed to presenting the story of aviation, the human genius that made it possible and the profound effects it has had on the way in which we live. High-quality exhibits engage visitors and help them understand aviation technology, history and the stories of the men and women who built, flew and made history with these famous machines.

For more information about the New England Air Museum and the SOAR Program, visit www.neam.org.

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