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Director's Update: Winter 2009

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles D. Metcalf, Director
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
The Education Division has set a record in 2009 with over 140,000 participants in our wide-ranging programs. If you think that the education program equals yellow school buses bringing children to the National Museum, you are only seeing one aspect of this vital museum function.

Our school programs offer the traditional docent-led tours, informational scavenger hunts and hands-on, inquiry-based lessons. These programs meet national and Ohio state academic content standards, are multidisciplinary and offered for grades 2-12. Most programs are free and available as outreach into local schools. They include topics about flight, space and various aspects of Air Force history. For instance, "Fun with Flight" explores basic aerodynamic principles while "History Mystery" teaches basic research skills as they examine and analyze primary sources in an effort to determine the "mystery" person or group.

Throughout the year, the National Museum offers specialized programs such as "Read Across America", part of an annual national reading motivation and awareness effort. Our event runs two days, bringing local second and third graders to the museum to hear aviation stories while sitting next to the associated aircraft. Each spring we hold the Student Aviation Art Competition. More than 400 public and private schools in the area are invited to participate. Recent themes have ranged from the humanitarian efforts of the USAF, the 60th Anniversary of the Air Force and the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission. Space Day is offered each May as part of the National Space Day celebration, with Kite Day in October and Wright Brothers Day offered each December.

Twice a year, our focus is directed to home school families with the popular Home School Days. We offer 10 formal hands-on classes for grades K-12; two story times are provided for pre-school children; two guided tours in small groups visit the museum's artifacts, and there are informational scavenger hunts to challenge young visitors as well as aerospace demonstrations. This year participation reached 6,591. (This is a 403% increase since 2001). Home school families came from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Teaching the teachers is a key element in extending the National Museum's outreach efforts. Since 1997, we have offered the Project SOAR Teacher Institute each summer in conjunction with the University of Dayton School of Education and Allied Professions. The institute is directed to middle school science and mathematics teachers. Teachers are immersed in aerospace education topics throughout the week and during follow-up seminars. This year funding was provided through a grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. In addition, the museum staff regularly presents at the Ohio Council for Social Studies, National Council for Social Studies, Science Education Council of Ohio and the National Science Teachers Association Regional and National Conferences.

Another popular program is Family Day. Offered on the third Saturday of each month (exception in December when it is on the second Saturday), staff and volunteers conduct hands-on demonstrations of aeronautical science, walk-in workshops, storytimes with aerospace themes, and assembly-type programs. This year over 91,000 have participated in this exciting program. (This is a 450% increase since 2001.)

Each summer the National Museum offers Aerospace Day Camps for students in grades 2-9. These five week-long camps focus on aviation stories with accompanying hands-on science and math activities for grades 2-3, rocketry for grades 5-8 and the principles of flight for Grades 4-6 and advanced principles for grades 6-9.

For adults, we offer the daily Heritage Tour, which follows the chronological layout of the museum from the Wright brothers' first military aircraft to the high-tech manned and unmanned aircraft of today. The Behind the Scenes Tours are offered on Fridays. At present, two World War II B-17 bombers, an A-25A dive bomber, an O-46 observation plane and a Minuteman I ICBM are in active restoration, and many more U.S. and foreign aircraft are in the queue. Reservations are now open for the spring tours.

Visit our website for further details about all of our programs.

The next time you visit the National Museum, we hope you and your family will participate in one of our education programs.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Friends Journal. To receive the Journal and other benefits, become a member of the Air Force Museum Foundation.