A new partnership between SMMUSD and The Aerospace Corporation offers teachers and students more opportunities to gain hands-on experience in engineering and physics. The partnership, announced last week, will allow teachers to attend “external” courses at the company, which has a research and development center in El Segundo.
Corey Eckhart, a physics and careers and technical education (CTE) teacher in Samohi, participated in a pilot of these “externships” last summer. He spent two weeks learning about the inner workings of aerospace by working with the Aerospace Innovation Lab team on internal research development projects.
“It’s easy to fall into a teaching cycle or pattern and think you’re teaching the right skills, but the industry may have moved to a different set of desired skills that students need to have, which means it’s important is to update the lessons regularly,” said Eckart. “From a student’s perspective, knowing I’ve seen things firsthand makes them trust me more than their teacher, leading to students being more engaged in the classroom because they trust me to guide them appropriately.” .”
The partnership was created by SMMUSD’s Learning and Innovation Coordinator, Devon Smith, who reached out to the aerospace industry about opportunities for collaboration, particularly the professional development of CTE educators like Eckhart.
“We want to expand theirs [teachers] Industry knowledge and I had a fantastic conversation with them [Aerospace] that led to this budding partnership,” said Smith.
Smith also said they plan to bring a variety of aerospace professionals into the SMMUSD classrooms for presentations and to host events in partnership with the company so students can learn about potential career opportunities, particularly those with a history marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds.
“I think when students see professionals who look like them and have opportunities through these events and guest speakers, these are all ways that we can help more students find their way into those positions,” Smith said.
Lianne McGinley, Aerospace’s associate director for corporate social responsibility, said she sees the partnership as mutually beneficial.
“Building strong partnerships is critical to fulfilling Aerospace’s mission and ensuring the future success of our nation’s space programs,” said McGinley. “We were delighted to host SMMUSD physics teacher Corey Eckhart for an internship this summer. He has experience in the aerospace industry that will expand the reach of our STEM programs and ultimately increase diversity in STEM fields.”
Smith said there were plans to give more teachers the opportunity to take aerospace internships next summer and that they would be completed sometime in the spring.
“We appreciate the opportunity for students to gain a good insight into the industry and having a partner like Aerospace helps us with that,” said Smith.