While many think of a school library as a quiet place to study, Kingston High School librarian Rachel Flores has transformed the space by incorporating more hands-on learning activities, such as a flight simulator.
The Microsoft-based program is new this school year and has been a popular attraction for students before and after school and during lunch. One component that enhances the experience is a cockpit chair where students sit with all the controls and functions of a flying vessel in front of them.
“We purchased all the exterior components to make it as much of a cockpit as we could,” Flores said. “It’s not just a kid sitting down on the screen pushing buttons. It really mimics the actual process of sitting there and having to use the rutters and throttle and watching the gauges.”
Students make reservations to use the simulator by signing up at the library. At first, many students struggle with flying a vessel, often resulting in a crash, Flores said. But then “a lot of them get used to it, and you’ll literally see them sitting there for 30 minutes doing a flight,” she said.
There are different kinds of simulations such as fighter, Top Gun and commercial airline. Different difficulty levels are offered depending on how comfortable each student is. Flying options include landing at different airports and flying in difficult terrains such as mountains, deserts and rainstorms. There is also a helicopter simulation, and Flores mentioned wanting to eventually add simulations for big rig trucks, farm equipment and trains.
Some KHS students are interested in going into military careers and receiving their private pilot license, and Flores said the simulator gives them the option to hone their skills. “These are all jobs for our kids who are not college bound that really want to go into these types of” professions, Flores said.
Flores said the program is something she has been vying for the school to incorporate, as it gives students the option to see if aviation is a career they want to go into, or they can just do it for fun.
“This is one of my babies,” she said. “What I’ve noticed from that perspective is always looking for options of what kids can do outside of school after they graduate. A lot of kids don’t know what they want to do when they get out of high school. Being in a smaller district, sometimes there aren’t as many options for them to explore those things.”
One student who avidly uses the flight simulator is KHS senior Kahn Kelii, who said he’s just doing it for fun as he recently watched the new Top Gun movie. He said it’s cool when his friends are all around watching because they want to try it, and things end up getting competitive.
“I fly better than Tom Cruise, but he’s a close second,” Kelii said with a laugh.
While North Kitsap High School does not have a program like this, those students are welcome to use it before or after school as long as they have permission to be at KHS. Adults can also try it.
Funding was provided mostly by the Kingston-North Kitsap Rotary Club. “The Rotary Club really liked the idea of wanting to help give kids career ideas and ways to explore them in a safe environment,” Flores said. “The flight simulator was one of those pathways.”