The Civil Air Patrol and Elks Lodge in Pierre are teaming up to teach basic aviation to local youth, using models and hands on activities. This is known as Aviation Day for Pierre Schools.
Steve Wegman helps K-5 students put gliders together as one of the crafts for Aviation Day in Pierre. This event has over 400 kids registered and the students have a few options for activities. Elementary aged children can make their own glider, create a small parachute, make a plane out of straws or even test their flight skills on a computerized flight simulator. Wegman is with the Pierre Elks Lodge.
"So it’s kind of our first time we’ve ever done anything (like this). It’s an after school event, it’s an early release date here in Pierre. So the teachers are getting their educational training and the students are applying the avenues of science," Wegman says.
Wegman says the teachers had an in-service day in Pierre, so the community decided to create Aviation Day as event for the kids. Wegman says he’s been interested in aviation for most of his life and an event like this can even bring out the youth in the staff members. Ironically, he says it reminds himself of the days he spent working at the state capital.
"When we would wait for the legislature in the final hours, when they throw the code over the clock, we would fly gliders off the rotunda in the hallway. Because there was nobody else in the building, it was late at night. We read everything we wanted to, we just had to be there to make sure things got done and what the business was at the end of the day," Wegman says.
The local Civil Air Patrol is also helping with Aviation Day for the kids. Nancy McKenney is a Major with the Civil Air Patrol and she says she enjoys creating activities the kids can have fun with.
"We kind of try to keep things simple, so the kids can build them. And we’re taking straws and strips of paper and taping them on the straw and it makes an airplane, which is to show them that an airplane doesn’t have to look like an airplane to fly," McKenney says.
Major McKenney says she hopes she can do something like this again in the future because the experience is just as enjoyable for the adults. She says she has a favorite part of volunteering her time for these types of events.
"Working with the kids anytime. Civil Air Patrol has kids or children that are 12 to 21 and then adults. Although, I’m 75, there’s no end limit I guess," McKenney says.
Both the Elks Lodge and Civil Air Patrol are going to analyze this years Aviation Day to decide if this could become an annual event. Wegman with the Elks Lodge says he’s always willing to help bring joy and education to a child’s life.