Air Force Museum Puts Character Traits in the Pilot's Chair

By Holtman, Regina | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 22, 2001 | Go to article overview

Air Force Museum Puts Character Traits in the Pilot's Chair


Holtman, Regina, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Children can learn character in many venues, one of them a museum in Savannah, Ga.

The Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum, which commemorates sacrifices of U.S. airmen from World War II to today, offers a way for students to learn about the 27 character traits mandated by Georgia's state character curriculum.

Students can learn about the patriotism that movie star Jimmy Stewart exhibited in signing up for combat in World War II or the generosity the U.S. Air Force displayed while dropping shipments of food over the Netherlands in 1945.

"The museum, with its historical exhibits and personal stories, seemed a natural vehicle to use," says Vivian Rogers-Price, the museum's director of education. "There are so many examples that illustrate nearly every single mandated trait. It was a natural association between the history and stories here at the museum and the traits."

The 90,000-square-foot museum was built in 1996 with a $12.5 million bond from Chatham County, where it is located. The character-education program is in its second year. About 10,000 students viewed the museum in 2000.

When they enter the building, students first receive a brief overview of the history of the 8th Air Force Division, first activated in 1942 after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Next, they visit the "Honoring the Eighth Gallery," which has a panel for each character-education trait, with a period photo and a historical story to go with it. Panels are scattered among the artifacts. For example, with the generosity trait, the museum displays an air drop canister like the ones the 8th Air Force used to drop food over the Netherlands.

Students also go through the "Mission Experience," a multimedia presentation that includes a flight simulation of the sights and sounds of a bombing run.

"It's a very emotional and heart-pounding experience," Miss Rogers-Price says. The multimedia presentation was one of the aspects Wallace Blackstock's fourth-grade class from Ricon Elementary in Ricon, Ga., liked best about the Mighty Eighth when they visited last October. Their school is only 30 minutes outside of Savannah, but some groups have traveled from as far as Orlando, Fla., or Greensboro, N.C.

"The next day," Mr. Blackstock says, "students came back and said, `I talked to my grandfather and he was in the war and he said he was on a plane, too.' "

"Part of our mission is to enable these young people to experience something that we pray they never have to experience in real life," Miss Rogers-Price says.

"We want them to learn about history - the good and the bad.

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