Anchors away . . . attendees at NSBA Annual Conference ship off to the Navy

So what do school board members, superintendents, and other education leaders across the nation have in common with the Navy?  Education, games and simulations!

The Navy and other military branches work hard to connect with today’s students and schools to provide resources across the country through their ROTC and outreach programs.  Although, ROTC programs are such a huge benefit to students, they don’t always get the attention and support they deserve when it comes to the education system.  Why?  The obvious answer is that schools have so many mandates and bench marks to hit that often time’s result in additional programs losing their much deserved attention despite their benefits to the education system and student learning and development.  We’ve seen this happen again and again with music and art programs as funding and staff are scaled-back, and with after-school programs, outreach and volunteer programs in schools when there are staffing shortages.  So with the military’s support of education, their outreach to schools, and their effective use of technology in their own education and training efforts why aren’t schools tapping this readily accessible and mutually beneficial relationship more often?  Well, a group of Annual Conference attendees will be participating in a site visit to a naval base on Coronado, just outside downtown San Diego to answer that question.  The Navy will share what they have been doing to ensure that the fluency of their highly trained squadrons remain informed, experienced, and safe.  How do they do this? The answer is simple – technology, education, and continued professional development.  

Games and simulations are not new to training in the military.  The Army and Marines use it to simulate the experiences that their infantry officers will encounter while in combat.  The belief is that the more times a soldier is exposed to situation the more clearly they will be able to navigate the challenges and ensure the safety of their men and those they are there to protect.  NSBA aims to demonstrate how this very same idea can be applicable in the classroom by exposing students to simulations and games around biology, anthropology, math, spelling, and grammar.  S.T.E.M. is a hot topic in education today and games and simulations hit all four parts of the initiative: Science.Technology.Engineering.Math.  Is it possible for games and simulations to bring S.T.E.M. to life and maybe encourage more young girls to explore the fields of science, technology, math and engineering?  The statistics are promising. 

Simulations are used in the military because they are the most realistic way to bring to life the words on the pages of the books that were written to train and protect our soldiers.  Reading something and experiencing it are two totally different realms of learning and retention.  If a pilot reads about how to land a plane or do a night-trap (landing a plane at night on a ship) they may understand the concept but would they feel affluent and confident enough to get in a plane and try it without first having the safety of a simulator to practice?  The same is true for how students learn.  People learn by doing.  Adolescences learn to drive and car by driving on their permit under the watch of their parents.  A pilot learns to fly by testing their wings out in a simulator first.  A doctor learns to operate on a cadaver.  To provide students with the ability to get their hands dirty and learn by doing is an invaluable gift that hopefully more schools will explore.   Games and simulations provide that access across the curriculum and grade levels. 

NSBA’s site visit with the Navy will demonstrate the amazing efforts and honorable mission of the Navy as well as their utilization of games and simulations in education.  To learn more about the visit please stop by our website and to find out more about the Navy and their ROTC efforts and use of simulations please visit their website.

We hope to see you in San Diego!

Colleen O'Brien|March 30th, 2009|Categories: Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |


  1. Gustavo Mendiola says:

    Military Support to Higher Education

    I applaud your positive comments regarding the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and other military based outreach programs. I am sure the NSBA Annual Conference attendees will have a wonderful and enlightening experience with the Navy ROTC at Naval Base Coronado. I strongly support the integration of games, simulations, and other military proven methods into the educational curriculum. These types of simulations are very effective tools that immerse students in the subject matter they are to learn and practice.

    While your article focuses on games and simulation used by the military and ROTC programs in training, I want to comment on the first part of your article regarding the viability of our ROTC programs in our Nation’s school systems, particularly that of Junior ROTC programs within our high schools.

    As a product of Army Junior ROTC in high school, a graduate of West Point, as an active duty military officer, and with a high school aged son, I am reflecting on my high school education and have come to appreciate the positive learning and development environment my JROTC program afforded me.

    Before I proceed, let me offer a bit of history. The U.S Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) was created by the National Defense Act of 1916 following World War I. Under the provisions of the Act, high schools were authorized the loan of federal military equipment and the assignment of active duty military personnel as instructors. In 1964, the Vitalization Act opened JROTC up to the other services (such as the Navy and Air Force) and replaced most of the active duty instructors with retirees who worked for and were cost shared by the schools. The direct financial support from the military became limited and placed more of the financial responsibility on the individual school systems.

    In its inception following World War I, the program was looked upon as a source of enlisted recruits and officer candidates; in the mid 60’s the purpose changed to become a citizenship program devoted to the moral, physical, and educational development of American youth, using a military structure. Title 10 of the U.S. Code declares that “the purpose of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.”(1)

    I am confident that since my participation in JROTC over 18 years ago through today, the program has shed its perceived purpose of military recruiting and upheld its goals to develop young, productive citizens for our Nation. JROTC cadets joining the military after high school are certainly the exception and not the rule. However, due to budgetary constraints and lack of student interest, viable JROTC programs are becoming scarce.

    In today’s challenging educational environment that is at the center of public criticism, dwindling budgets, and perceived lack of student quality, the U.S. military is attempting to take an active role in improving the higher education system through existing outreach programs and exploring new opportunities. We realize that the future leaders of our Nation and leaders of our military force are sitting in today’s high school classrooms. We have a vested interest in assisting the higher education system to improve; however, the military too suffers from budgetary challenges and competing requirements. Nonetheless, we have a duty to support the Nation’s educational system.

    My questions to you and your audience follow: How can we the military help? Is the problem strictly about funding? Have the protracted military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan hindered support from the community and from educators? To explore your question, “how do we help schools tap into the readily accessible and mutually beneficial relationship?”

    I am looking forward to continuing this discourse and read the feedback regarding the ROTC event the NSBA will participate in.

    Major Gustavo Mendiola, U.S. Army
    Student, Command and General Staff College

    “The views expressed in this response are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.”

    (1).Extracted from the US Army JROTC History. Found at

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