Robert W. Mellette
On a rain soaked field, in the early light of dawn, a daring young aviator parlayed his skill, his ambition and his courage to embark on a flight that would promote the cause of aviation in the hearts and minds of people around the world.
The aviator was 25 year old Charles A. Lindbergh, piloting the “Spirit of St. Louis”, a custom designed single engined airplane that would be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean non stop New York to Paris. Charles A. Lindbergh not only captured the Orteig prize but the imagination and interest of people around the globe.
The successful flight made by Lindbergh celebrated the culmination of all the advances that had occurred in aviation before this historic flight and heralded the potential of commercial air transport that was to follow. It was a flight of tremendous impact.
My curriculum unit, “The Spirit of St. Louis: The Man, The Machine, The Legacy,” will capitalize on this historic real life drama and use Lindbergh’s story to teach junior high school students basic concepts in aeronautics. The basic strategy of this unit will be to follow the flight of Lindbergh’s epic journey from his take off in New York to his landing at Le Bourget field in Paris. To accomplish this, serial “clips” from the classic Jimmy Stewart film “The Spirit of St. Louis”, along with Lindbergh’s own biographical notes will be used and the principles of flight will be investigated in the order they present themselves. To be more specific, and to illustrate a case in point, historical records reveal that at 7:52 A.M. on an overcast day on the 20th of May 1927, Lindbergh’s plane heavily loaded with fuel lumbered down a muddy field in New York and with agonizing slowness struggled to gain altitude at the end of the field. At this “teachable moment” the film or video tape would be stopped and the class challenged to explain what force or forces act on a plane and permit it to “lift” off the ground and to remain in the air. At this point, the instructor would guide his or her students to carefully examine the cross section of an airplanes wing. I would suggest that a plastic or wooden model of an airplane be displayed in the classroom for close examination. At this point it would be instructive to introduce through lecture and student experiment
. Sample lesson plans that demonstrate this principle are included in this instructional unit. Since “lift” is such an important concept in the study of aeronautics, many and varied experiments should be performed so that all students have a clear understanding of this phenomenon.
I would suggest that this curriculum be taught by breaking it into three main parts. These three sections of the curriculum could be taught by one instructor in a self contained classroom or be divided up if they are taught in a inter-disciplinary setting. The first part of this trilogy would be a study of
—the forces that shaped the character of this 25 year old that had the audacity to attempt such a bold adventure. Students in language arts or humanities classes could read Charles Lindberg’s book “WE”. Similarly, students could read literature of the time period to get a flavor of this era.
The second part of the trilogy concentrates on
. In this section which relates best to instruction in a science classroom, students examine aircraft in general and Lindbergh’s plane in particular. The core of the curriculum is the study of aerodynamic principles as they relate to the flight of winged aircraft. Whenever possible, the instructor should relate understandings to the actual flight Lindbergh made.
The third and final section,
relates well to instruction in social studies or could be continued in the science classroom. In the conclusion of this curriculum unit students examine the impact this historic flight would have on the future of commercial as well as general aviation.