Take the Leap: Mix Social Studies and STEM

By Larry Jacobs

Monday’s Podcast was with Jacksonville-area Social Studies Chair Daniel Tobias-Flint of West Side High School who also is the historian for The Round Canopy Parachuting Team; i.e., people who willingly leap out of airplanes while the airplane is way up high in the air. BTW, IMPORTANT FACT…they are wearing a parachute when they do this.

I want to make this perfectly clear: I am not one of them! I am the type of person who holds tightly onto a banister as I walk down the stairs, a rare occurrence if there is an elevator nearby… and I am the kind of person who closes his eyes watching IMAX movies about Mount Everest… and I have to wear a diaper when I watch “Where Eagles Dare,” what with the cable car dangling and all. I did find a cure for my “Where Eagles Dare” challenge. I don’t watch that movie anymore. I am very impressed with RCPT members. They love it.

RCPT, with every jump, honors who they call the “Boys of ‘44”; young men who jumped for the US Armed Forces in World War 2 and helped win the war. My father-in-law, long gone now, was one of them. He jumped in behind the lines on D-Day and fought to the ocean. But I digress.

Listen to my podcast with Dan and his guest, Lt. Colonel (ret) Bill Markham who is president of the club. Colonel Markham, btw, spent 29 years in the army for us. So did his wife, a full Colonel upon retirement. Dan uses the group and its history to teach World War 2… and bringing the vets into the classroom makes history human, very engaging and they can do that virtually at your school.

BUT they also teach STEM via the dynamics of parachuting. How do you control a parachute? How do you make it land where you want it to land? What’s the wind got to do with it? What about the science of Geography? How much weight can you carry and land safely? What’s the math behind it all, the science, the technology? Take the leap (see what I did there) like Dan does because nothing happens in STEM without Social Impact….and K-12 has to go interdisciplinary with STEM because nothing happens in science, technology, engineering or math without social impact. And what better way to keep kids engaged, involve interdisciplinary educators in your classroom and create a sense of awe and understanding than bringing in vets, like Dan does.

Social Studies education went down all these years while STEM education went up. That’s been an error on the part of K-12. I yell and scream about that all the time. There’s no point to STEM without understanding its social implications. Don’t believe me, ask the folks around 3-Mile Island Hiroshima and Chernobyl. Dan’s work is a classic example of what we oughta be doing …and, btw, here’s to the “Boys of ‘44.”

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The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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