Last year, the Summit for America's Future featured volunteerism and children as its major themes. Museums epitomize those themes; they generate millions of hours of community service from active volunteers who number in the tens of thousands. For children, museums offer a safe place to learn and grow. Institutions such as the one we propose can both be safe places, and places to impart skills and perspectives to help children recognize and even create safe places of their own. As a heritage museum, Air/Land/Sea Historic Park will be able to impart a sense of patriotism and pride in public service at an early age.
Museums have become a high priority with the federal Department of Education. In June, the White House announced the first round of awards for the "21st Century Community Learning Centers", a new $40 million after-school program. Education Secretary Richard Riley has made numerous pronouncements about the "mutual interests" and "natural partnerships" between museums and schools.
To be successful in today's environment, a museum (or any other cultural activity, for that matter) must also be perceived as relevant by the community it serves. The Air/Land/Sea Historic Park and Technology Center must be aware of the priorities and issues that are important to the people on whom it must depend for support. Its greatest opportunity for winning that battle lies in the field of education.
Ships and planes can excite young minds. They inspire questions such as "How do boats float?" and "How do planes fly?" This Park plans to commit significant resources to programs and equipment to help future generations understand the answers to those questions, and better understand history, math and the physical sciences. Using models created by others and developing new programs of its own, the Park and Technology Center can have a significant impact on present and future generations.
The phrase "build it and they will come" works for school participation in museum education programs. At other aviation and naval museums which sponsor strong educational experiences, there are as many as 500 students per day on class field trips during the school year. Those facilities that offer state-of-the-art technology and make the experience fun generate even larger family numbers during the summer.
Future generations will gain from education outreach programs, using creative partnerships to inspire young students to reach for the stars and beyond. "Together, we are growing a stronger America from its grass root", wrote Peggy Young, Executive Director of the Museum of Aviation in Georgia. [Ms. Young, recently retired, has agreed to assist this project with the development of its education programs.] There are about 1.2 million students within a 150-mile radius of the Museum of Aviation, and approximately 175,000 took advantage of their outreach programs between 1990 and 1996.
Listed on the following pages are some of the education-related programs this Park is pursuing.
The Rhode Island Youth Science and Technology Center (YSTC)
Such a center would be set up as an affiliate of one or more of our local colleges. Funding for the existing YSTC in Georgia comes from the Department of Education, local business, industry and participating school systems. Based at the Museum of Aviation, it serves teachers and students from five surrounding counties.
Programs at Quonset could include:
During the 1995-96 school year, YSTC at the Georgia museum reached more than 2600 students, nearly 1000 teachers, and 360 others, including administrators and interested business/civic community members.
Development of Curriculum Guides
An "Aviation in the Classroom Curriculum Guide" will be developed for use in classrooms throughout Rhode Island. This guide will be based on work developed between the Texas Department of Education and the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston. It would incorporate lesson plans for English, History, Mathematics and Science for grades K-12. Our challenge is to adapt this framework to the State of Rhode Island educational curriculum. After the approval and statewide distribution of the curriculum guide, the Historic Park is prepared to offer accredited workshops for school districts, designed to assist teachers in developing creative activities for their classes. The Park will also offer on-site presentations around the region and even the state. Some samples of the museum consortium's collection (easily transportable, but not easily damaged) would give the students a visual representation of some of the holdings.
Among the many objectives of this program:
One workshop would be entitled "How Things Fly". This is a perennially popular program at many institutions, including the National Air & Space Museum. Students aboard Intrepid in New York visit specially selected exhibits aboard the carrier to learn about the historical development of airplane flight and design, and compare the flight of aircraft with that of birds. By constructing paper airplanes and experimenting with different designs, they investigate the concepts of drag, lift, weight, and thrust.
Similar curriculum adaptations could be made for "Science Aboard Ship" projects, such as those being developed by carrier museums elsewhere.
Science Aboard Ship Program
Similar programs at other ship museums provide a "hands-on" environment with real-world applications using various workstations and compartments located throughout the ship. Tailored for various age groups, the "hands-on" exercises range from learning the use of simple machines to the key concepts and principles of flight. Younger students will see how using a lever and fulcrum enables even the smallest of them to open a 400-pound weather door, while older students may operate sound-powered telephones and participate in a dry-cell battery experiment.
As early as the second grade, youngsters can begin to understand the answer to the question, "How do boats float?" Students are introduced to the concept of floating by coming aboard the floating Saratoga, which contains more than 52,500 tons of structural steel. They compare ship models and learn about shape and function. In a hands-on workshop, students design their own boats and test the load capacity of their designs.
Students of all ages can improve their knowledge of history, geography and map reading skills by following the exploits of the various ships named USS Saratoga since 1778. The students will use physical globes to discuss the history of the six ships and the location of each ship's service, and learn to plot the course of the USS Saratoga using longitude and latitude. They discover the mystery of the magnetic compass, and learn how to "dead reckon" their way about the ship.
These programs are designed to provide a "hands-on" environment to enhance basic learning skills, utilizing the ship's facilities. These learning opportunities also provide a real-world perspective in history, math, and science.
Live Aboard Program
A camping program for organized youth groups is a very popular (and profitable) program at each of the other carrier museums. Each vessel accommodates between 300 and 600 students for an overnight experience in the berthing compartments.
Seven major ship museums reported overnight encampment numbers to the Historic Naval Ships Association for 1997: more than 73,000 campers and $2.4 million in income.
Experience elsewhere has clearly demonstrated the interest and excitement created by aerospace topics inspire students to learn. Starbase would be a space-oriented program designed to reach underrepresented and underserved students in southern New England. It would provide youngsters with unique curricula of goal setting skills, hands-on science and math activities. One example of a successful program is USS Intrepid's Microgravity: Toys in Space class for fifth through seventh grades. Students examine mock-ups of Gemini and Apollo spacecraft to learn about the life support systems used in space flight. They also experiment with simple toys similar to those used by space shuttle astronauts to learn more about microgravity. A short video shows how astronauts sleep and eat in a microgravity environment.
Eighth graders explore more advanced aspects of space flight. Various demonstrations introduce them to space shuttle technology, such as the thermal protection system. Through simple experiments, students simulate orbital motions, inertia, velocity, and gravity.
In Georgia, a similar program also reinforces substance abuse avoidance. This project could conceivably be developed through Department of Defense funding, as has been achieved elsewhere. A similar program at the Museum of Aviation in Georgia was funded by Headquarters Air Force Reserve.
Starbase would conceivably include tours of the Air National Guard and flying squadron work areas to let young people see first-hand how the classroom relates to real world occupations. The potential involvement of homegrown astronauts, such as William Readdy (who was born at Quonset Point) and Woody Spring (Ponaganset High School grad) would certainly enhance the program.
Vocational and Job Training Programs
The Historic Park and Technology Center will also become a resource for business development through school-to-work initiatives to be run in conjunction with area industry, colleges and technical schools. One obvious and immediate opportunity exists in the field of aquaculture, through Greg Huba's VG SeaFarm project just northwest of the carrier pier. There is a potential (and immediate) link to oceanography programs at the University of Rhode Island. On a broader scale, project sponsors plan to explore the potential for the partnering of a business incubator with vocational and technical training, led by a consortium of local colleges and technical schools.
An example to follow might be that of Shipyard College at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, a unique partnership led by Drexel University that includes the community colleges of Philadelphia, Camden and Delaware counties. Realizing that an incentive for businesses to rent space would be the availability of worker training, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Commission eagerly bought into a program through which business start-ups could lease space and take advantage of the training program at the same site. This linking of regional industry to the development and delivery of manufacturing education and training could be a boon to the overall development of the industrial park.
This project could also provide the basis for the Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) recommended in the Town of North Kingstown Comprehensive Plan. "An MTC will also provide teaching and training services and analysis, design and planning services to bridge the gap between new technologies and manufacturing in Rhode Island", says the town plan.
The carrier alone has complete woodworking, welding, metalworking, engine maintenance and other machine shops aboard. These shops, plus the proposed restoration of the Mitchell Mobile Hangar, would provide well-equipped facilities for vocational training in a number of disciplines related to the park's Air/Land/Sea theme. Park sponsors will explore the possibility of Rural Development funding for this concept, similar to that provided for the boat building apprenticeships on the East Bay.
The Mitchell Mobile Hangar is planned as a site to rebuild and restore vintage aircraft for other museums and individual collectors. Such a facility is sorely lacking in the northeast; virtually all warbird restoration shops are now located in Texas, California and Florida. The unique capabilities of this hangar's clamshell design make this concept feasible in the northeast. This venture would provide immediate employment opportunities for graduates of the technical training programs.
Experts say the 1990s will see concentrations of business and industry in less costly and congested locations that possess the educational centers to train a labor force for emerging businesses and technology. For this reason, many installations emphasize training and education.
A museum must do far more than collect, preserve and display - it must teach. The Park will seek out professionals to help develop an educational program linking history, technology and other associated disciplines.
For school children, the recent past will be put in perspective. World War II, Korea and even Vietnam are often not emphasized in today's classrooms. Showing a dramatic view of our past will help explain our heritage.
For scholars and researchers, the museums will provide material for in-depth study of ships, aircraft and the services they performed.
For pilots and mechanics the park will offer opportunities for training on rare and significant aircraft and engines.
For veterans of all services, the museums will provide a forum in which to relive old memories and experiences, and to record these for future generations in the form of oral histories.
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