St. Stan students given the ‘go’ to construct and fly paper airplanes

MICHIGAN CITY – Thomas Zemlik, a St. Stanislaus Kostka School eighth grader, confessed to a time he threw a paper airplane in class.
“I made one in art class and got yelled at for it,” he shared.
Students throughout the Michigan City school were actually encouraged to construct and fly paper airplanes in celebration of National Paper Airplane Day, May 26.
A team from the newly-formed Michigan City Civil Air Patrol (CAP) spent the day at St. Stanislaus to give students a hands-on learning approach to aviation and introduce them to the CAP’s Cadet Program.
“It’s having some fun while you’re learning,” said John Keiper, director of operations for the drone program and squadron commander of the Michigan City CAP squadron.
The CAP Cadet Program is a U.S. Air Force Auxiliary aimed at forming students, ages 12-18, in aerospace education, leadership, character development and fitness. Keiper said about 20% of cadets actually go into the military.
“We’re developing our country’s future leaders. They’re better prepared going into college and careers knowing how to lead others,” said Keiper.
The visit was part of the group’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) outreach program to introduce the students to aerospace and technology education and career opportunities.
Keiper related constructing and flying paper airplanes to real life situations.
“These are just paper airplanes but at the same time we’re showing how tweaking and adjusting the paper airplane can make them fly differently,” said Keiper, “thinking outside the box if you’re faced with tough decisions. There might be more than one solution to the problem. One student tried an adjustment we’ve never seen and was able to share it with classmates.”
“Pretty cool,” is how Zemlik, who has a passion for planes, described the visit. He said it deepened his understanding of airplanes and gave him a better understanding of the CAP program. “It showed where I would start in aviation if I wanted to pursue an aviation career,” he said.
CAP Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Arabella Winslett, of Michigan City, praised the students’ efforts. “These kids are very bright. I’m really proud of the job they did with their planes,” she said.
“It doesn’t seem like a paper airplane will demonstrate how a real airplane flies. It’s a fun activity for the kids to understand how an airplane works,” added Winslett. “I learned by going up in a plane for the first time. I wish I learned from a paper airplane my first time.”

Winslett is the new cadet commander of the new Michigan City squadron, crediting the CAP program for bringing her out of her shell. “I was really scared and very, very shy. The first day, I left early and didn’t want to go back,” recalled Winslett.
The 20-year-old Michigan City resident said a friend coaxed her back and she gained a sense of confidence. “CAP has helped me get out of my comfort zone. I’ve done so many things I would have never done if I didn’t join CAP,” she said.
Many students acknowledged the paper airplanes they constructed under the direction of CAP members were somewhat complicated and intricate, but once they took flight, the results spoke for themselves.
“I knew how to make paper airplanes before, but it wasn’t as complicated as the ones we built today. “But these planes went farther and straighter. The little adjustments made a big difference,” said Mariah Mitchell, a seventh grader. “The presentation was really cool. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before, like pitch and yaw, how to make adjustments to make the plane go up or down.”
“I’d consider joining the Civil Air Patrol. I like trying new things,” added Mitchell.
Seventh grader Yahlin Serrano said planes make her scared and nervous, but the program was fun. She said she built simple paper airplanes in the past that didn’t fly very well, but the program gave her a better understanding of how to construct airplanes. “These are much easier to make, and they fly straighter and better than my simple ones,” Serrano said.
Vanessa Hernandez, an eighth-grade student, admitted it’s been a long time since she’s constructed a paper airplane and that the step-by-step process helped her. “It made a huge difference. Mine would always crash. This one flew pretty far and straight,” she said.
Junior high language arts teacher Coren Balsley credited CAP members for their visit and described the presentation as awesome. She said it’s important for students to interact with groups such as CAP so that they have a better understanding of what is available in their community. “The hands-on experience is a fun way to learn,” said Balsley.
“The hands-on experience is important because students learn how to put what they hear into action,” she said. “It helps students retain the information better.”


Caption: St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic School students Mariah Mitchell and Yahlin Serrano make the final adjustments on their paper airplanes May 24. Members of the Civil Air Patrol outreach spent the day at the Michigan City school introducing students to aviation through building paper airplanes. (Bob Wellinski photo)