Kid-Friendly Ways to Explore Aviation

Summer is here, and if you’re like me, you’re always searching for fun, educational activities to keep your kids occupied during summer break! Since Team SHD loves all things aviation, we’ve put together a list of fun aviation-related activities, programs, and resources for kids of all ages. We hope the kids in your life will love exploring the friendly skies and learning more about aviation this summer! 

For Elementary School Kids

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides wonderful resources for introducing elementary school students to the amazing world of aviation. Kids that love hands-on learning will enjoy working their way through this list of aviation related experiments. Each experiment demonstrates an aviation principle using common and easy-to-find supplies. One of our favorites is the Which is Stronger, You or Air? experiment that demonstrates the concept of “lift” using only a ruler and a piece of newspaper.

For kids that love video games, the Airport Design Challenge game will surely be a hit! This STEM-based activity challenges kids to design a virtual airport in Minecraft based on guidance from FAA aerospace engineers and experts. Kids are encouraged to do the activity as a group, so it’s the perfect opportunity for siblings or friends to work together! 

If the kids in your life are curious about space travel, check out NASA’s Kids’ Club. Kids can play games, enjoy fun STEM activities, and even launch a rocket! Your young astronaut will love NASA’s engaging approach to all things space. 

The Shenandoah Valley is lucky to have a wonderful aviation exhibit at the Explore More Museum in Harrisonburg. The Take Flight exhibit features a full-size Beechcraft King Air 90 fuselage, a mock control tower, an airport lounge, and more! Kids are encouraged to let their imaginations soar as they try on a variety of aviation roles.

For Middle School Kids

The FAA keeps the aviation fun going with a great list of activities for middle schoolers. From making a compass to learning about concepts like wingspan through designing a paper airplane, there’s a wide variety of activities to keep your child occupied. One of our favorites on the list is the “A Real Gem” experiment, where kids can use common household items to build a hovercraft! 

NASA has also compiled a fascinating collection of activities for middle schoolers. From building activities to video game based modules, NASA puts an emphasis on fun and learning. Be sure to also check out the Citizen Science section of the website, where opportunities for kids to help scientists with real NASA projects are posted! 

If being a pilot is of interest to your child, check out the Redbird Virtual STEM Lab, that uses a flight simulator to teach aviation science. The simulator is free, but students will need access to the internet and YouTube. Redbird also offers a number of engaging modules about piloting, aviation mechanics, aviation weather, and more! Middle schoolers interested in becoming pilots, especially in the military, also have a unique opportunity to start training early through the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Cadet Program. The CAP program focuses on four areas to develop future pilots – leadership, aerospace, fitness, and character. CAP is a great way for kids to not only learn about aviation but also provides a glimpse of military life. 

If you’re looking for an aviation themed road trip with your middle schooler, Shannon Air Museum in Fredericksburg is home to one of the rarest collections of airplanes and aviation artifacts in the world. This family friendly museum combines history with hands-on activities to spark the imaginations of aviation enthusiasts of all ages. The museum operates Monday – Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm with the last tour starting at 3 pm. 

For High School Students

The FAA didn’t forget about high school students in its aviation related offerings. The FAA’s list of activities for high school students includes building a model of the 1903 Wright Flyer, exploring gravity with marbles, building a helicopter, and more! One of our favorites is the “Build an Unusual Paper Airplane” task, which uses household materials to craft a plane unlike any you’ve seen before! 

For 9th – 12th graders, NASA has many exciting ways for students to learn about and get involved with NASA. Click here to check out NASA’s activities for high schoolers. For students interested in careers with NASA or in aviation, be sure to head over to the NASA internship page for a list of opportunities! The Redwing Virtual STEM Lab and the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Cadet Program mentioned earlier are also open to high school students. 

To give your high schooler an unforgettable aviation experience, check out NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Wallops was established in 1945 and continues to be a busy facility for conducting research using suborbital vehicles. More than 16,000 rockets have been launched from Wallops, and many launches are open to the public! Check out the Wallops Launch Schedule to plan a visit to see a launch firsthand – definitely a must do for any aviation novices and enthusiasts alike! Be sure to head over to the Visitor’s Center at Wallops while you’re there to explore their engaging exhibits about space.

We hope the kids in your life will love exploring aviation this summer! You never know what will spark the imagination and when that spark could turn into a lifelong career.