HOT TOPIC: Wright Brothers
Volume 3, Issue 15 - December 17, 2006

"During our many summers on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we would explore many of the memorable sights and locations offered there, from light houses and gardens to out-lying islands and ever-shifting dunes. Jockey’s Ridge, a huge dune on the southern-most part of Nag’s Head, had changed every year we returned due to the prevailing cross winds shifting between the sound and the ocean. Our annual climb to the top of the Ridge allowed us a view of the entire southern end of the barrier isle. Always spectacular, we usually climbed in the early evening when temperatures were subsiding and breezes were cool. Flying a kite from the top of Jockey’s Ridge was like dancing in the sky.

Just due north of Jockey’s Ridge lies the Wright Brothers National Memorial, maintained by the National Park Service. At the highest point sits the monument itself; the point from which the Brothers’ Wright launched their flyer. Heading down from this height is a slowly descending field, gently unfolding by degrees with the breezes from Jockey’s Ridge wafting down the slope. At the base of the incline sits the visitor’s center, where exhibits and tours are offered. But the most worthwhile pursuit for visitors is to exit the visitor’s center and leave the crowds to walk along the field and see the distance markers where the Wright’s craft landed. Looking back up to the monument at the height of the horizon, one is instantly struck with an appreciation of what a daring risk it was to try and waft above the grounds, lofting towards these low points of this open expanse.

One-hundred and three years ago today the Wright Brothers recorded their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk on the Outer banks of North Carolina. The conditions were perfect and the experiment was a success. Today we face a new set of challenges and frontiers as the twenty-first century unfolds before us much like the fields beneath the Wright Brothers Memorial did for Wilbur and Orville a century ago. Whereas the twenty-first century made us automated and standardized, this new century holds for us the promises of outer space and cyber space. In studying and experiencing the history of the Wrights, today’s students gain an appreciation for the qualities needed for today’s explorers and discoverers.

There are many quality resources online to help bring Wilbur and Orville Wright to life in your classroom. This week’s Digital Dozen newsletter offers the best and then some!"

©2005 Walter McKenzie

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