National Veterans Memorial and Museum will expand educational options
By ALISSA WIDMAN NEESE | The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio | Published: May 20, 2019
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Navy veteran Todd Alles educated kids for years as a teacher and administrator for schools throughout Ohio.
In his latest role, as a National Veterans Memorial and Museum volunteer tour guide, his goal hasn't changed. But now he's teaching children about people like himself and how the military affected their lives.
"It saved my life," said Alles, 71, of Dublin. He told a group of Delaware County eighth-graders Thursday that, before enlisting in 1965, he was a rowdy boy who often got into trouble growing up on the South Side of Columbus.
They listened intently. He encouraged the youths to write down questions and attach them to an interactive exhibit where veterans could write the answers.
As the school year comes to an end, museum staff say they're excitedly looking toward the next one, as their plans for educational offerings are starting to take shape.
Since January, the museum, located at 300 W. Broad St. Downtown, has given about 30 tours to school groups.
The museum, which opened in late October, recently secured a $500,000 grant from Battelle, a Columbus-based science and technology company, to support its efforts to grow that number and find new ways to reach students.
It also hired a public programs manager, Stacey Queen, who previously led educational efforts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, in Hartford, Connecticut, the country's oldest art museum.
Battelle's funding will help the museum develop more interactive exhibits and support a paid summer fellowship program for college students. The students will help develop the curriculum that will be used by teachers next school year, in correlation with the Ohio Department of Education's learning standards.
Queen hopes all fourth-graders, who typically visit the Ohio Statehouse, can start visiting the museum the same day for a double-dose of local history.
Museum staff unveiled the plans at an reception earlier this month in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. About 65 educators attended.
"We want to be an extension of classroom learning," Queen said.
On Thursday, the Olentangy Orange Middle School students who toured the facility said that was their experience. They learned about the Civil War this school year, but considering the personal stories of veterans was a very different experience.
They learned about the "Fighting McCooks," a family of two brothers and their 13 sons from Ohio who fought for the Union, and the Terrill family, just over the border in Kentucky, which divided and fought on opposite sides.
The more modern exhibits were especially meaningful for students such as Aubrey Weber, 14, who has two siblings in the Navy and a cousin in the Marines.
"It touches your heart, when you realize how hard it is for some people who have served our country," Aubrey said.
Since December, Queen has been reaching out to area educators to explore learning opportunities beyond traditional museum tours, too.
For example, officials at Columbus Downtown High School, a career-technical school that encourages its students to complete off-site internship experiences, say the museum is a natural fit for its programs. Students in culinary arts could help prepare meals. Cosmetology classes could provide haircuts and spa services for vets. Information technology students could assist with web development.
"I don't think we've come close to hitting all the things we could possibly do," said Cheryl Cooper, the school's career-technical academic specialist. "You just don't know what a difference it could make in our kids' lives to be a part of something like this."
To plan a visit the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, go to www.nationalvmm.org. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12 for college students and $10 for youth. Children under 5, veterans and members of the military get free admission, and groups receive discounts.
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