From flying a drone to obtaining a drone pilot license, a donation from North Salem Foundation for Learning starts a new field for students in North Salem Middle/High School to explore. 

Mark Halstead, president of the NSFL, said the donation aims to provide an opportunity for the school district to try innovative programs.

Through this new opportunity to work with drones, Halstead wants to inspire students to expand their interests in other disciplines such as photography and technology. He thinks the drone course will integrate well with other courses and provide more options to involve students and faculty. 

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“It starts from one direction and will evolve into cross-curricular learning, which will get more students involved,” Halstead said. 
Julio Vazquez, director of instruction and human resources in the North Salem Central School District, said the $3,000 donation covers training cost for two teachers, who are expected to start teaching a drone elective course at the middle/high school in the 2020-2021 school year. 

The teachers, Tom Pedane and Suzanne Taylor, who are from the music and math departments, respectively, have finished an online course and are expected to take a test for licensing to fly a drone and teach the course. Vazquez said the teachers were selected based on their background and experience and by recommendation from the middle/high school principal.           

The school district is in the process of developing the course and planning for implementation. 
“The donation brings more diversity to our STEM curriculum and provides an opportunity for us to work on a pilot project,” Vazquez said.   

Over the years, drones have been used in many fields, including real estate, military and commerce. Vazquez said preparing students with knowledge and skill in flying drones will provide them with an advantage in future job markets. The school district will run the drone course as a pilot project and explore more opportunities going forward. 
The course will teach basic mechanical knowledge of flying a drone. 

Established in 1996, NSFL, a nonprofit volunteer-driven organization, looks to give students an edge in the competitive global marketplace by providing funds outside the traditional school district budget.

Each year, the NSFL awards 11 scholarships to seniors in recognition of their academic achievement and funds enrichment projects, including the purchase of iPads for special education students, student-designed life science kits for sustainable agriculture and robotics for STEM programming. Over the years, the organization has provided over $200,000 in grants and scholarships. 

Halstead said the foundation looks for curriculum-related projects and programs that have a lasting impact and can benefit as many students as possible. The projects allow students to work as a team and come up with creative solutions. Halstead hopes to spread the word and encourage more students to submit their proposals. 

“We’d like our projects to have some sort of legacy component, which can be used by students in subsequent years,” Halstead said.     

Halstead said one of the challenges NSFL is facing is fundraising. The foundation is funded through membership fees and donations. It hosts fundraisers throughout the year in an effort to bring the community together and support the next generation of global citizens. 

“We have a very strong school district and kids who are good performers,” Halstead said. “We really enjoy working with the students and the district.”