10:55 AM

ACE Program Lifts Off for 2020-2021 School Year

Civil Air Patrol’s Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) program for grades K-6 has launched for the 2020-2021 academic year, with this year’s annual national liftoff held at Silver Sands School in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Silver Spring School hosted the liftoff after being named CAP’s 2020 National ACE School of the Year out of more than 517 schools. The school, which serves special needs students from pre-K through 12th grade, interwove the ACE program throughout its classes adjusting lessons to accommodate all the students.

When COVID-19 closures halted in-person instructional programs last spring, Silver Sands continued to provide ACE lessons to students via YouTube videos created by the school’s ACE coordinator, Marian Gilmore. Principal Stephanie Wheat joined Gilmore in the videos and was instrumental in ensuring the students continued with engaging STEM activities until school began in August.

During the liftoff, special guests joined the students to observe a helicopter landing and the entrance of ACE mascots Cappy and Air Bear.

Florida Wing pandemic-related restrictions prevented CAP rerpresentatives from attending, but Candace and Vernon Curtis from the Air Force Association's local Eglin Chapter 365 were pressent. Candace Curtis spoke to the students about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in their lives.

All students and staff wore distinctive purple ACE shirts sponsored by AFA Hurlburt Chapter 398, thanks to the chapter’s president, Jim Connors.

“I’m so proud of our little school and the fun that they have had with the ACE lessons,” Wheat said. “Although concepts are, at times, difficult for some students due to their disabilities, they are still involved and learning during the lessons.

“Hands-on lessons and demonstrations are so important for our students, so we designed our ACE liftoff day to ensure our students were actively involved.

“They had a blast!” she said.

The liftoff event was a great way to celebrate our school and the ACE program for our students and our community,” Gilmore added. “With several aerospace hands-on activity centers and a helicopter landing at the school, all students and staff had an amazing day.”

2020 ACE National Award Recipients