Related Topics: Aviation, Women's Issues
Grade Level: 4th/5th
Author: Maren Willey
Table of Contents:
"Decide ...whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying ... ." These words came from Amelia Earhart, one of the most celebrated individuals in history. She earned a place in our history books through her courage, determination, and daring spirit as a pioneer of aviation. For decades, Amelia Earhart has stood as a symbol of success and freedom for women worldwide. She is proof that we can all accomplish our dreams and that we must overcome the failures and setbacks that inhibit us.
Amelia Earhart was not always famous. She was born to Edwin Stanton and Amy Otis Earhart on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas, and three years later her sister Muriel was born. The girls were brought up in Kansas City where the family lived, but they spent a great deal of time at their grandparents' home in Atchison, Kansas where Amelia was born. Mr. Stanton worked for the railroad as a lawyer and was often away on business trips and Mrs. Earhart often accompanied him. Edwin Stanton, though a caring man, lost his job due to alcoholism and the family fell on hard times. They moved to Des Moines, Iowa, then to St. Paul, Minnesota and then back to Kansas City while Mr. Stanton obtained new jobs and relocated.
The family was poor so Amelia and Muriel learned to entertain themselves with hobbies that required little or no money. Their parents often encouraged them to try new things including activities that were typically reserved for boys such as baseball, basketball, fishing and insect collecting. The girls loved to read and excelled academically even though they often missed school due to their family's circumstances. Amelia's adventurous spirit shone through even as a child as she built a roller coaster out of scrap wood and sailed down snowy hills on sleek, flat sleds that were typically only used by boys. At age ten, Amelia saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair and was disappointed by its boxy, rickety frame. Little did she know that one day it would be her passion.
Because her family moved a great deal, Amelia attended six different high schools before she graduated in 1916. Amelia continued her education at Ogontz School in Rydal Pennsylvania, but changed her plans after she traveled to Toronto, Canada to see her sister. One day on the street, Amelia met four wounded World War I veterans. The experience brought the war much closer to Amelia, and so in an effort to help out, she quit school and became a nurse's aide.
Amelia was fascinated by stories she heard of daring pilots who had spent the war fighting from planes in the Royal Flying Corps. She enjoyed watching airplane stunt shows with dare devil pilots looping, spinning and diving their planes through the air. Amelia received her first airplane ride from Frank Hawks, a famous record-setting pilot. She described the flight as "breathtaking beauty." After that, she knew flying was her destiny. Amelia worked for a telephone company as a file clerk to pay for her first flying lessons which carried a $1,000 fee. In June 1921, Amelia completed her first solo flight, and in 1922 she received her pilot's license. Jobs for pilots were slim especially for females and so in the years that followed, Amelia worked many odd jobs finally ending up in Boston where she worked at a settlement house teaching English to immigrant children.
In 1927, a man named Charles Lindbergh became the first person ever to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. The total distance was 3,610 miles and it took 33 hours and 30 minutes for Lindbergh to complete the flight. After this historic flight, an aviation advocate, Mrs. Frederick Guest, decided that a woman should cross the Atlantic as well. She began to search for someone who had the knowledge and skills to make the flight. Amelia fit all the criteria, and so Mrs. Guest's friend, George Putnam, asked Amelia if she would accept the offer. "How could I refuse such a shining adventure?" was all that Amelia could say. She was attracted to the danger of the flight and the challenge that lay before her. On June 18, 1928 the plane Friendship landed in Wales to complete the flight successfully.
Even though Amelia did not pilot this flight, she received a great deal of publicity from the adventure. She became instantly famous with her name and photograph in newspapers all over the world. George Putnam covered the story and he and Amelia became good friends. The reporters gave Amelia the nickname "Lady Lindy" because of her physical resemblance to Charles Lindbergh.
Amelia felt that she had not earned the fame that came with the Friendship transatlantic flight. She wanted to prove to the world that she really was the first woman in aviation strictly by her piloting skills. Five years after Charles Lindbergh began his famous solo transatlantic flight, Amelia began her endeavor to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Though she encountered many difficulties during the flight, Amelia crossed the Atlantic in record breaking time of 13 hours and 30 minutes. Her fame was now justified.
Amelia became a symbol of the "new woman" of the times. From her short boyish hairstyle to her relaxed casual dress, Amelia defied convention. Amelia gave lectures at universities sharing her enthusiasm for flying with other women. She said, "Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others." Amelia wanted to make sure that women had the same opportunities as men and so she developed an organization that promoted equality for women. The organization was called the 99ers of which Amelia served as president until 1933. Throughout her life, Amelia Earhart challenged and encouraged women to be independent and contribute to society.
On February 7, 1931, Amelia married George Putnam. He had proposed many times before only to be refused. Amelia did not accept George's proposal of marriage until she was assured he would give her the freedom that she needed. As a successful publisher, George arranged for the publication of two of Amelia's books - The Fun of It and Last Flight (which did not come out until after her disappearance).
In June 1937, Amelia began the flight that would be her last. She and Fred Noonan set out in a twin-engine LockHeed Electra (nicknamed the Flying Laboratory) in an attempt to fly around the world at the equator. For one month, Amelia and Noonan flew over "oceans, deserts and jungles." On July 2, the most difficult stretch of the whole journey lay ahead. From Lae, New Guinea, they would head for tiny Howland Island which is only 2 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. It was essential that they find the island. To aid the plane's navigation, U.S. Coast guard ships were placed in the Pacific. The ship Itasca was sending signals to Amelia but seemingly, she wasn't receiving them; they had lost contact with the plane. They received one broadcast, "'Cloudy and overcast.'" One hour later they received, "'We are circling.'" Apparently Amelia thought they had found Howland Island. Five hours later crew members aboard the Itasca heard another message from Amelia saying that they were circling around and around looking for the island. Meanwhile, the ship was sending signals, but the Flying Laboratory wasn't receiving them.
That was the last message to be sent that fateful morning. Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, and the Flying Laboratory disappeared without a trace. The U.S. Navy began an extensive sea-air search but no traces of the plane or survivors were ever found. The mysterious disappearance of Earhart and Noonan caused a great deal of rumors and speculation. Some say that Amelia had been captured by the Japanese and others say she was living on a tiny Pacific Island. The most reliable evidence suggests that the Flying Laboratory, tossed off course by tumultuous weather, ran out of fuel and was engulfed by large waves.
Amelia is an example of great determination, hard work and dedication. She overcame many obstacles to become great. She had a dream and made up her mind that she was going to live out that dream. She blazed a new path for women at that time, taught them to have confidence and respect for themselves, and also to take control of their lives. She will be remembered as a "smiling, confident, capable, yet compassionate human being" who's character we want to emulate.
Bell, Elizabeth S. (1994). Sisters of the Wind. Pasadena, California: Trilogy Books.
Boyne, Walter J. (1996) Amelia Home Page/CMG Home Page. "Amelia Earhart Quotes" [On-line] Available: http://www.cmgww.com/historic/earhart/quote.html
Chadwick, Roxane. (1987). Amelia Earhart: Aviation Pioneer. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company.
Sahlman, Rachel. (1996) Spectrum: The Family InterNet Magazine. "Amelia Earhart" [On-line]. Available: http://www.incwell.com/Biographies/Earhart.html
Tames, Richard. (1989). Amelia Earhart. New York, New York: Franklin Watts.
1. Students will be able to list characteristics of a brave and daring person.
2. Students will be able to describe contributions that Amelia Earhart made to aviation.
3. Students will be able to describe how Amelia Earhart contributed to the advancement of women.
4. Students will be able to identify at least four aviation pioneers.
5. Given the facts surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, students will formulate their own ideas about what actually happened.
Time Allotment: Approximately six class periods
Resources Needed: Appendix Material
Guest female pilot
1. Think-Pair-Share. Individually, have the students think about a time when they did something brave and daring and how they felt about the experience. Ask the students to think of characteristics that they possess that helped them do something brave and daring. Have the students write their ideas down on paper. Divide the students into pairs and have them share their experiences and feelings with each other. Have the students compare the characteristics of a brave and daring person and have them come up with one list. Ask the pairs of students to pick one item to share with the class as a whole. The teacher makes a large class list on the overhead of the characteristics possessed by a brave and daring person.
2. Mini-Lecture. Using the class list (above), introduce Amelia Earhart as an individual who possessed many of the characteristics of a brave and daring person. Explain that she did many things which people of her time thought were very dangerous. Use the background information to summarize Amelia's life, some of the obstacles she overcame and her accomplishments and contributions to both the advancement of women and aviation.
3. Turn-2-Think. Divide the students into groups of four. Pass out a set of question cards on Amelia Earhart and a set of answer cards to each group (See Appendix A). Have students number themselves one through four. Starting with person number one have each student select a question card and read it aloud. Have all the students think of the response to the question. Then, have the same person turn over an answer card to see which student (one through four) will answer the question. Keep going until all the questions have been answered.
4. Guest Speaker. Amelia Earhart was always encouraging women to follow their dreams. She knew that it did not matter what sex a person was when it came to what he/she could accomplish. She encouraged women to step outside the typical housewife stereotype and educate themselves so they did not have to depend on men so much. Review with the students how Amelia's attitude affected women of her time. Ask a female pilot to come and speak to the class about what it is like to be in her field. Ask her to share some of her feelings specifically about being a woman as well as a pilot. Ask her to share with the children some of the hardest things about being a pilot and why it is so exciting and daring. Have the female pilot share her feelings about Amelia Earhart's contribution to women as well as aviation. Is it easier being a pilot today or more difficult? Have the students write thank you letters to the guest speaker sharing specific information that they learned from her visit.
5. Numbered Heads Together. Divide the students into groups of four. Once they have divided into those groups have them number off one, two, three, and four. Give each group a set of questions about Amelia Earhart (See Appendix B). Explain to the students that each person will be responsible for knowing the answers to the questions so they need to work together and cooperate. The better the students know the answers, the better the team will do. After each group has had time to go through the questions and discuss the answers, call time. Call out a number 1-4 and ask one of the questions. Have all students who were designated that number to raise their hands. Call on students randomly for responses.
6. Jigsaw. Divide the class into groups of four students. Once in the groups have the students number off one through four. Give each student a different aviator on which to become an expert (see Appendix C). Give the students time to read the material and take notes if they wish. Have all of the ones meet together, all of the twos . . . . In these groups the students formulate what are the most important points that they want to teach the other members of their group. Have the students focus on major contributions and characteristics of the individual. Move the students back into their original groups. Each student is given five minutes to teach the other members of the group about his/her assigned aviator. When all aviators have been presented, give a short quiz to reinforce the learning.
7. Writing Extension. After reviewing Amelia Earhart's last flight, have the students come up with their own ideas about what actually happened according to the facts. Have the students write and illustrate stories about what actually happened to Amelia Earhart and her plane.
1. Contributions to Think-Pair-Share will be assessed as the class list is formed on the overhead. The teacher checks for understanding by listening to responses.
2. Responses to Turn-2-Think will be assessed anecdotally. The teacher will check for understanding of how Amelia contributed to the advancement of women.
3. A thank you letter will be written to the guest speaker. The teacher will ask the students to include in their letters specific information that they learn from the speaker. The teacher will assess the information in the thank you letters.
4. Numbered Heads Together will be assessed as the students answer questions orally in class as the teacher calls on them. The answers must demonstrate an understanding of Amelia's contribution to aviation.
5. Jigsaw will be assessed with the short quiz following the activity.
6. The creative writing stories will be assessed as either the teacher reads them or has the students share them in class.
This is a list of the questions for the "question cards". "Answer cards" will numbered one through four.
1. What impact did Amelia Earhart's childhood experiences have on her life as as adult? How did they shape her views about life?
2. Why did Amelia feel like she did not deserve the fame that followed the transatlantic flight of the Friendship?
3. What comparisons can be made between Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart and their accomplishments? (Think of differences as well)
4. Why was Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic important in the history of aviation? How did attitudes about flying change because of this flight?
5. Why are there so many speculations as to what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on their last flight?
Famous aviator information reference:
Cooke, David C. (1961) Flights That Made History New York: G.P. Putnam's sons.
The world's greatest scientists said it could not be done, but Orville and Wilbur Wright proved them wrong; they flew through the air in a powered airplane. One cold morning on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright flew the first airplane in history. The flight lasted twelve seconds and distanced 120 feet. The brothers Orville and Wilbur were two bicycle repairmen from Dayton, Ohio who had a dream to fly. They spent years testing theories and building glider planes before they built their first powered airplane. This first plane was very rickety and fragile. Its wings were made of wood and reinforced with wire, and the propellers were connected to the engine with "sprockets and bicycle chains." The Wright brothers called their plane Flyer, and with it they made "the age-old dream of flying a reality."
In June of 1911, young Calbraith Rodgers decided he wanted to learn how to fly, so he went to the Wright brothers for help. After an hour and a half, "he was considered sufficiently skilled to give exhibition flights." Rodgers had heard about a $50,000 prize to be awarded to the first man to fly across the United States in an airplane in less than thirty days. The only stipulation was that the flight had to be completed by October 11, 1911. Rodgers could not resist the opportunity. Rodgers prepared thoroughly but still faced delay after delay. On September 17, 1911, he finally took off from Sheepshead Bay, New York. More delays began the second day of Rodgers journey. He had a takeoff accident and was bombarded by poor weather and mechanical problems. With these problems, Rodgers did not even reach Chicago until October 8. Even though he knew he wouldn't win the prize money, Rodgers kept going. When he finally arrived in Pasadena, California, the flight had taken forty-nine days to complete but only eighty-two hours and fourteen minutes of actual flying time. He did not win any prize money, but he did get recognition for setting a record of flying three times as far as any man had ever traveled by airplane.
Charles Lindbergh was virtually unknown before he made headlines all over the world as the first man to make a nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris, France. A rich hotel owner said he would offer a $25,000 prize to the first person to make this flight. Lindbergh heard about the reward and decided to attempt the feat. He found some business men to help him financially, and then he started looking for a suitable plane. No plane seemed to be adequate for Lindbergh, so he had one specially made and called it the Spirit of St. Louis. Many pilots before Lindbergh tried to complete the journey across the Atlantic by airplane but had failed, and some men even died in the attempt. However, Lindbergh was successful. On May 2, 1927, Lindbergh and his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, arrived in Paris after a flight lasting thirty-three hours and thirty-nine minutes. Lindbergh received more recognition for this flight than any other pilot in the history of aviation.
"Amy Johnson was the greatest aviatrix in England during the 1930's." After learning how to fly, she made herself famous by flying from London, England to Darwin, Australia. Johnson Married Captain James A. Mollison, a record setting pilot, who was the first man to "fly solo from London, England, to Capetown, South Africa." Johnson became determined to complete this journey as well only in less time. On November 14, 1932, Johnson took off from London in her plane the Desert Cloud. During her flight she flew over many countries including France, Spain, Sudan, and Nigeria. She flew over the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Sahara desert and 'animal-infested jungles of Nigeria. She faced many obstacles, such as continuous rains and oil-line trouble with her plane, but still, Johnson continued. When she arrived in Capetown, South Africa on November 18, Amy Johnson was ten hours and twenty-six minutes ahead of her husband's time for the same journey.
1. What major feat is Calbraith P. Rodgers responsible for?
2. What were some of the difficulties that Amy Johnson faced in her flight from London to Darwin?
3. How did Orville and Wilbur Wright contribute to the history of flight?
4. What was the name of Charles Lindbergh's plane that took him across the Atlantic solo?
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