Starbase Education at the Portland Air Base

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142FW Public Affairs
An eager group of 5th graders from Woodstock Elementary School are quick to answer questions from Senior Master Sgt. Stanley Durfee, as they get personal insight on how an F-15 airplane functions. The students are part of the Starbase education program at the Portland Air National Guard Base and the up-close instruction allows hands on education for science and mathematics applications for elementary children.

"The kids just love the program because they get to see firsthand the airplanes and how they function and that provokes a new way of thinking," said Durfee. The tour aspect has long been the foundation to Starbase education but recently the program has shifted to more class room and a core text book approach. The curriculum is funded by the Department of Defense, with over 60 programs providing students with 25 hours of exciting learning time on military installations across the nation. Starbase in Portland is a partnership between the Portland Public Schools and the Oregon National Guard.

Since 1993 Marilyn Sholian has been working with Starbase Portland, and helped the program grow and develop many of the classes in chemistry, fluids and avionics that the students learn about when they are on base for their two weeks of classes. There are now 21 schools in the metro area that send 1,340 students through the program. "The kids are here four days each week and the classrooms are full all the time," said Sholian. Planting the seeds for science and technology is the key to that makes the program so successful.

The program is designed to focus on at risk student and in urban areas where access to some math and science classes might need extra support. "For some of our kids, this is almost all the science that they sometimes have for the entire school year," said Sholian.

As was the case with the Woodstock tour being the last tour of the year for Durfee it was the final one for the Portland Starbase classes. "This is the last year we are doing the tours because now all the classes will be selected and scheduled by the DoD, said Sholian. The Department of Defense directs many of the classes the children will have, gearing the education curriculum to the class room rather than touring the base or meeting military personnel like Senior Master Sgt. Durfee. "I am retiring in a couple months so the weekly tours I have been doing since 1998 will be ending just as I retire," said Durfee.

In the future, the classes will be set up at the Jackson Armory and in classrooms now outside the flight line and hangars but developing the strong math and science foundation that today's kids need to win the future in space related fields will still find a home at the Portland Air National Guard Base.