Rick McKown and Ron Robuliak spend their days filling young minds with the wonders of flight.
The two volunteer their time as education instructors at the Alberta Aviation Museum, teaching Grade Six students The Science of Flight. Known around the museum as “Rick and Ron,” both love aviation and sharing their knowledge and insight with young people.
“Aviation. I’ve had an interest in it since I was a kid,” says McKown. Before retirement he was an instructor working with Cadets in the Canadian Armed Forces. “My first badge when I was in Scouts was in aviation. Eyesight was poor even then, so flying was never an option.”
Robuliak grew up in aviation. His father worked for Trans-Canada Airways, which became Air Canada. But his father discouraged him from becoming a pilot, so he went into the telecommunications industry and learned to fly as a private pilot.
McKown and Robuliak teach a program based on the Alberta Education Grade Six curriculum. The museum has offered the program for more than 15 years. Last year, 75 classes took part, with more than 2,000 students.
McKown says the museum, and its collection of vintage airplanes, engines and artifacts, provides the perfect setting to teach the science of flight.
“If you can use the real thing as your training aids then you can enrich the teaching that you are doing enormously,” he says. “So instead of just showing pictures of the four-stroke engine, hey, we have a working model, let’s see what it actually does.”
“One of the big ah-ha moments here is when we show the ailerons moving on the Piper Cub. They’ve studied this in class and they kind of understand the concept. But until they actually see those ailerons moving in opposite directions…all of a sudden a light goes on.”
“The kids love it,” says Grade Six teacher Pablo Rojas, from St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Edmonton. “The displays aren’t behind glass. It’s interactive. They feel like they are outside of the class and yet they are in a class. “
His school, like many in the city, attend every year.
“Come September, when I come back to work, it’s one of the first calls that I make.”
Rojas is also thankful to the museum, and volunteers like McKown and Robuliak, for their commitment.
“The parents and I talk about the fact that the instructors are volunteers. And they are just blown away that they are willing to give their time, their expertise and their love. It’s incredible.”
The volunteer instructors say they get as much as they give.
“There are so many rewards working in here,” Robuliuk notes. “It’s working with youth and children. Trying to influence their future into possibly getting into aviation. I think as you get older you have to keep your brain active and teaching this class certainly does that. “
The next few months will be extremely busy ones for the Education Program. We need some additional instructors to get us through the year. You can find out more about volunteering at the Alberta Aviation Museum here.