The Grant Beacon Aerospace Adventure class is helping middle school students take flight through STEM focused training courses both in the classroom and at Centennial Airport. Liz Kailey leads the program and describes her experience, procedures and goals:

I became involved in Grant Beacon Middle School when my son attended as a 6th grader. One of the reasons that I wanted my son to be a student at Grant was the school’s enrichment program, which introduced kids to a wide variety of subjects, ranging from dance to photography to science.

At that time, the enrichment classes took place once a week and I volunteered my time to teach an aviation class. The staff at Grant was tireless in working toward becoming a Denver Public School innovation school and the enrichment program was expanded to 4 days a week as part of an extended learning day. I was asked to be part of the innovation team and soon I expanded and enhanced my class to encompass the space industry as well.

For five years, I have taught the Aerospace Adventure enrichment class two days a week in four, eight-to-ten week sessions during the school year. In the class, the students build rubber band-powered balsa wood airplanes and Estes model rockets that launch 200 feet in the air.

Along the way, students explore aviation and space history, learn how to use tools, materials, and instructions to construct working airplanes and rockets, and apply STEM topics, such as math and physics to real-world situations. We also take a field trip to the airport where students observe takeoffs and landings and sit in the cockpit of a training airplane and of a jet to see how the controls and equipment work.

For most students, this class is their first exposure to aerospace. By participating in the enrichment classes, students:

1. Are exposed to new subjects to which they typically do not have access. Over 80% of Grant students qualify for free or reduced lunch—many do not have opportunities outside of school to experience subjects, such as aerospace.

2. Learn skills, such as teamwork, communication, and building—they achieve a sense of accomplishment and ownership when the airplanes they constructed fly or their rockets launch.

3. Have an opportunity to discover something that they have a passion for—a topic that motivates them to come to school and that might lead to a future career or hobby.

And discover how the subjects they learn in school, such as history, math, and science apply to the real world and how doing well in school can lead to exciting opportunities in fields such as aviation or space exploration.

4. Realize that there can be joy in learning for learning’s sake—not necessarily to complete an assignment or prepare for a test—but to expand their horizons and enrich their lives.

I believe that the enrichment program— with classes such as Aerospace Adventure—provides a more effective school experience and increases student motivation to achieve in school, graduate, and lead fulfilling lives.

To learn more about the Grant Beacon Middle School Program, visit