2. Policy implications

With the curriculum components confirmed, there were still some administrative hurdles to surpass. Because drone integration in education was still a relatively new concept, we needed to develop a district-wide policy for the use of drones. Of course, that policy was subject to legal requirements and, ultimately, the approval of our school board.

We were fortunate to have district administrators and school board members who immediately saw the same opportunity in drone applications and worked diligently to make our vision a reality. Since we traversed those administrative issues, there are now numerous model policies available to districts looking to incorporate drones in their area.

3. Educating the insurers

Another lesson we learned was the importance of educating our insurance carrier on the very specific ways our new policy would play out. It should be no surprise that the insurer first balked at covering the potential liabilities. But once we helped them understand prioritization of safety measures, the insurer was able to make the necessary accommodations. Again, as drones become more commonplace in educational settings, this resistance should change as well, but the expertise of our curriculum partners at SkyOp has been very helpful in securing those approvals and ultimately the coverage we needed.

How we created a comprehensive drone curriculum #STEM

4. IT implications

With all else in place, there was still one more hurdle to surpass. As mentioned earlier, simply teaching students to fly a drone is only part of the skill set they will need in the drone industries. They also need experience in data collection and hands-on time with the data analysis, photogrammetry, and 3D mapping tools common in the market. The challenge for our IT team was to ensure our lab hardware was up to running those data-rich and processor-heavy applications, all while accommodating the massive volumes of data storage the students and instructors would require.

In all, the deployment of this drone-focused STEAM curriculum took a district-wide effort from the passionate teachers who first saw its potential to the administrative team as well as our elected officials and even some knowledgeable outside partners. Today, the first cohort of juniors and seniors is making its way through the program, with confidence that they will be ready to take on the challenges of the modern-day workforce.

About the Author:

Dr. Mark Beehler has served as the assistant superintendent for academic services in the Salamanca City Central School District since 2015. A former science teacher, he also served as director of instructional technology, director of science and health, and then chief information officer in a large suburban school district in Western New York. Dr. Beehler has focused on the implementation of STEAM not as a standalone curriculum or “one more thing to do,” but rather as an instructional approach to leverage the natural characteristics of Gen Z students to collaborate on interdisciplinary project-based learning experiences.