Innovative Pilot Program at Summit

Summit’s 5th graders mastery of math and science takes off with innovative pilot program brought to Summit by Southwest Captain Rob Bych

Wrangler News, May 19 2012 written by Alison Stanton

As a captain with Southwest Airlines, Rob Bych’s number-one goal is to get his passengers safely from Point A to Point B.

To do this, he must know more than how the various controls in the cockpit work. Every time he flies, Bych also calls on his knowledge of math, physics, geography and other subjects.

A parent of three children attending Summit School of Ahwatukee, Bych also knows that sometimes young students qestion if they will ever use what they learn in school in “real life.”
So, when Bych, a west Chandler resident, heard about the Adopt-A-Pilot program—a nationwide initiative that puts Southwest Airlines pilots into fifth-grade classrooms for five weeks to help teach the students about topics like math, science and career goals—he knew he had to volunteer to bring the program to his kids’ school.

Four years ago, Bych became one of the 1,000 or so Southwest Airlines pilots who participates in the Adopt-A-Pilot program. Every year since then, he has returned to the school in the spring to teach, entertain and inspire the children with his combination of engaging curriculum-based lessons woven into discussions about everyday life.

Bych recently completed this year’s program with 20 fifth grade students from Lori Christianson’s classroom.

Listening to Bych recall his time with the students, it’s immediately clear how enthusiastic he is about the Adopt-A-Pilot program.

“I go into the classroom wearing my uniform and I start off talking about my career,” he said.

“I say things like, ‘You are in fifth grade now, but what will you do after high school, and after college?  Everyone asks what you will do when you get older, and now is the time to start thinking about it.’”

After sharing his own story about how he become a pilot, Bych starts to teach his first lesson, which focuses on goal setting.

“I stress the importance of having a mentor—adults who are on the other side who can help them become what they want to be,” he said.
“But, as I say to them, they need to tell us what they have in mind, and then we can see if we can find someone who can help.”

For example, if a student expresses an interest in becoming a physical therapist, Bych said he would try to find someone in the profession who would be willing to speak with him or her.

Next, Bych said he dives into discussions about geography, describing where he has been and asking what places the students have visited.

“We talk about rivers, cities, mountain chains, and the nicknames we have for some cities in the world like The Big Apple and The City of Lights and The Windy City. It’s a very fun course.”

Bych also tells the students all about weather—from the difference between a warm and cold front to whySeattle,Washingtongets a lot more rain than here in the desert.

“We look at the Earth and the sun and weather patterns and the tilt of the Earth and why this causes us to have seasons,” he said. “Then we talk about time zones, atmospheric pressure, and temperatures.”

When it comes time to discuss math with the fifth graders, Bych starts out with some simple equations like, “If it’s 300 miles toLos Angelesand my plane is going 300 miles per hour, then how long will it take me to get there?”
Stressing along the way just how often he uses math in his day to day work, Bych makes the problems progressively harder; for example, asking them to calculate how much fuel a plane will use during a certain trip.

During his talk on the physics of flight, Bych explains why and how an aircraft is able to fly, why it is shaped the way it is, how propellers work, and the four forces of flight: lift, gravity, thrust and drag.

“We talk about the difference between port and starboard and airspeed versus ground speed, and why airports are laid out the way they are, and what the numbers on runways mean and why there are different colored lights on them like red, white, blue and green.”
The program culminates with a trip to Sky Harbor International Airport, where Bych takes “almost as many parent chaperones as kids” as well as the students and Christianson to a maintenance hangar, where they can see a B-737 airplane up close.

“We look under the plane, and at the radar behind fiberglass, and talk about why we have two hydraulic systems and why there are only two tires, and we look inside the cargo bin.”

Once inside the plane, anyone who wants to is allowed to sit inside the cockpit.

Bych said every year, one or two students expresses an interest in flying. If they do, Bych is ready, willing and able to help mentor them.
Regardless of what career aspirations the fifth graders might have, Bych just wants to help the students achieve their dreams.

“My passion is flying. I always wanted to fly. I love going to work every day,” he said.
“My goal is to motivate them to open up and tell us what they want to be.”

Christianson said she is extremely grateful for the time that Bych devotes to her classroom every year.

“He is the reason the program is successful,” she said.

“I like that it reinforces our classroom objectives, like geography, math, science and physics. And I also like the way Rob brings to each lesson the wisdom from his own life, explaining how to apply all of what he is talking about from day to day. It’s his personal philosophy that he imparts that makes it extra special.”

Kevin Bannon’s daughter Katie is a fifth grader atSummitSchool. The south Tempe resident said he was greatly impressed by how engaged and enthusiastic Bych was with the students.

“Katie seemed to thoroughly enjoy it and brought home stories about the cockpit and how much fun she had,” he said.

Monique Sutila’s son Alexander found it especially fascinating to learn about the aerodynamics of flight.

“I was impressed at how much information they received about aviation, flight, airplanes, what keeps them in the air and how they fly,” said Sutila, a southTempe resident.

“Mr. Bych made it fun and engaged the kids in hands-on activities like making the perfect paper airplane.”


Summit Graduate is National Merit Semifinalist

Brett Reardon, a 2008 Summit School of Ahwatukee graduate has qualified as a 2011 National Merit Semifinalist. He was co-salutatorian of his 8th grade class at Summit.
Reardon, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident, is a senior at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler. He has been president of Seton’s robotics team for the past two years and is on their Academic Decathlon team. He is exploring various colleges, with Harvey Mudd, MIT, and Kettering at the top of his list.
Reardon has completed the detailed application process to become one of the state’s National Merit Finalist. Notification of the winners will be in February of next year.

Ahwatukee Foothills News December 7, 2011

Pen pals from Local Schools Meet in Person

Written By Travis Roemhild AHWATUKEE FOOTHILLS NEWS, Monday, November 14, 2011

With the way technology has evolved hand-written letters have, for the most part, been replaced by electronic means.
Two Ahwatukee Foothills schools made it a point to rekindle the personal nature of writing letters by hand.
Although it is part of the state-mandated curriculum to teach letter writing, teachers from Summit School of Ahwatukee and Kyrene del Milenio Elementary School wanted to take it a step further. Since September, 72 second-grade students, 36 from each school, have been corresponding by mail.

“I have seen just how excited they have been to receive regular mail from their pen pals,” second-grade teacher Molly Danforth said. “They are writing friendly letters to each other. In the past we wrote to other people within the school to teach the curriculum, but this year we took it to a whole different level and the kids were really excited about it.”
The idea was born from Summit School’s Dawn Anderson.

“Growing up, I had a pen pal in Sydney and I always wanted to meet her,” Anderson said. “Just that feeling of writing to someone you don’t see was a driving force. We talked with the vice principal at Milenio about the possibility of doing pen pals and she was totally for it. So we brought together our class lists and matched the students up together.”
On Thursday, after two months of writing each other, the pen pals got to meet each other. The Summit students walked to Milenio in the morning to spend the day with their pen pals.

“I was like, ‘It might not be so fun,’ when I first heard about it,” Milenio second-grader student Ryan Collins said. “But it was great. We have a lot in common.” The teachers also took the opportunity to teach the students about something else. “Beforehand, we talked to them about what it meant to be a good host,” Danforth said. “It was our jobs to be a polite and courteous guest or host.”

While the hand-written letter may never regain the significance it once had, the two teachers believe their students got a glimpse of what it was like before technology, and appreciated it.
“They thought it was neat to know their letters were leaving the school,” Collins said. “It was not someone they were going to see on a regular basis and that motivated them to write a good letter.”

Algebra Students Win State Honors (2011)

Four Summit School of Ahwatukee 7th Grade Algebra Students Win State Honors

The results are in from the 2011 State Algebra Contest, sponsored by the Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics (AATM) last May.

Josh Pagone and Amber Barto were two of the four Summit seventh graders who scored in the top ten percent statewide.  Summit students Jonathan Booher and Alicia Farr earned an additional distinction by being among the top 10 highest scores in state. “This algebra course is equivalent to a high school class and they give it their all,” explains teacher Christy Guidorizzi. “My students have such a great attitude about learning, making my job as their teacher extremely fun and rewarding.”
Approximately 600 students state wide participated in this competition, which was open to all students enrolled in a first year Algebra class.

Left to right:
 Josh Pagone, Jonathan Booher, teacher Christy Guidorizzi, Alicia Farr, Amber Barto


The Vitruvius Program is an architecture, art and design program that serves as the art curriculum at Summit School of Ahwatukee, for preschool through eighth grade. In March of 2011, The Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) in Chicago announced that Summit’s innovative Vitruvius Art Program is the winner of the National School Award;

This competition included school art curriculums offered to preschool through 12th grade.
This award makes Summit the representative for the United States in the International Architecture & Children Golden Cubes Awards competition sponsored by the International Union of Architects (UIA) in Paris.

The Vitruvius Program was founded in 1988 at the Southern California Institute of Architecture by Kathleen and Eugene Kupper. The Program has been offered in elementary schools, museums, exhibitions and publications and is presently integrated with the regular academic curriculum at Summit School of Ahwatukee in Phoenix AZ, where Kathleen and Selene Kupper are lead teachers.

To read about The Vitruvius Program and the National Award:
To read the announcement from the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO):

A video of the Vitruvius Program at Summit School of Ahwatukee may be found on the Summit School website.

The AAO conducted the U.S. competition with the American Architectural Foundation and the American Institute of Architects, both in Washington DC. The UIA Golden Cubes Awards were organized to recognize, encourage, and support those individuals and organizations that lay the foundations of an architectural culture and help children and young people, from preschool up to age 18; to understand architectural design and the processes by which our environment is shaped.

The U.S. Nominees now join other top programs from across the globe in a celebration of Kindergarten – 12th grade Architecture Education efforts at the UIA Congress in Tokyo, Japan, September 25-28, 2011.
Nominees’ work will be publicly displayed at the Tokyo Congress. The UIA will select four final winners in the international phase. The U.S. winners, meanwhile, will be honored by the Association of Architecture Organizations at its Annual Conference in Philadelphia later this fall.

About the Vitruvius Program: The art curriculum at Summit School of Ahwatukee
The Vitruvius Program (VP) offers studio education in Architecture, art, and design. It was founded in 1988 and has been implemented in Architecture Schools, Elementary Schools, and Museums. Special projects, after school and summer programs are still offered: it is presently integrated with regular curriculum for all students Preschool – Eighth grade at Summit School. The VP has been published and exhibited internationally and awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

• Detailed objectives for teaching methods and content for each grade level and for each architecture project are structured into a ten-year curriculum. Skills taught for each age-appropriate group include: Discussion, Presentation and Critique, Freehand and Constructed Drawing, Modeling in a variety of media, Painting, Printmaking, Photography, and Installation/Exhibition.
• Children learn Architecture through intense design projects and examples of historical and contemporary art and architecture. A balance of cognitive and manipulative skills is taught in each project, with individual and group critiques and exhibitions for public discussion. All students demonstrate understanding of architectural design principles and achieve a high level of completion, with excellent material and craft techniques.
• Social, Environmental and Global Understanding is emphasized as the spiritual and practical goal for our students. Projects are selected to stimulate understanding of site, physical setting and cultural milieu, with specific programs that address the social and technical issues of the community. International design team partnerships are established at a local and global level.
• Creative thinking is promoted and developed, merging with critical inquiry to identify environmental and urban problems and propose innovative solutions.
• Young students enjoy creating models and drawings of Worlds they can explore. The model is a tool and a toy that stimulates imagination and focuses concrete thinking. Drawing and painting offer freedom of expression yet disciplined work for which students take pride. The students take pleasure in achieving creative skills that can make positive changes in their world.
• Parent, administrative, and colleague evaluations consistently rank the program in the 98th percentile for excellence in creative learning. They are enthusiastic supporters of the Vitruvius Program, its teaching methods and social objectives, and are impressed by the architectural content of the work. This support is evident in articles, grants, museum shows, exhibition reviews, awards, and our daily life experiences.
• The Summit School thematic based curriculum addresses individualized learning approaches, diverse students, and interdisciplinary subjects. The VP integrates with Summit’s core curricula and closely collaborates with teachers and specialists.
• The Vitruvius model as implemented for the last 10 years at Summit School provides an excellent working example that may be emulated and replicated. Graduate students in architecture who have worked with us have brought our approach to other settings with success.