More than 12,000 fifth-grade students in South Carolina public schools will climb aboard a recently restored B-25 Mitchell Bomber plane at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum during the 2020 school year to learn about the 1942 Doolittle Raid while on free field trips. The trips are just one part of the museum’s literacy and distance learning initiative that is funded through the state Education Improvement Act (EIA). Patriots Point uses history as a tool to teach literacy, science and math skills.
In addition to hosting field trips, the museum prints more than 130,000 storybooks and distributes them as a science and history set to every fifth-grade student throughout the entire state public school system. The books were written by educators at Patriots Point and create an integrated learning experience by supplementing lesson plans used by teachers and linking to extended learning resources that Patriots Point provides to classrooms online through augmented reality.
“It is incredible to see how far we’ve come in five years, and what we’ve built to support the fifth-grade curriculum across the state,” said Patriots Point Education Director Keith Grybowski. “When students visit Patriots Point, they are challenged to put the skills they’ve learned to work. For example, while in our science program, they must work as a team to clean up a fictitious oil spill in Charleston Harbor. During our history program, they have to solve complex math problems to pull off the historic 1942 Doolittle Raid when B-25 bombers took off from aboard an aircraft carrier on a mission to bomb Tokyo.”
After solving those Doolittle Raid equations, students get a once in a lifetime opportunity to climb aboard a B-25 plane that’s on display aboard the USS Yorktown to experience what it was like for airmen to look through a gun turret. A complete restoration of Patriots Point’s plane was completed by museum staff just in time for the start of the new school year.
Also new for the 2020 school year, students will learn about the Panama Canal and how the lock system works. A grant from the South Carolina Ports Authority provided necessary funding for the creation of working models that can elevate or lower a small radio controlled aircraft carrier to different heights. The USS Yorktown navigated the Panama Canal in July of 1943.
“We’ve created a truly integrated learning experience by combining history, storytelling and technology,” Grybowski said. “There isn’t another place in the world where you spend a school day aboard a World War II aircraft carrier learning about the science behind South Carolina’s landscape and the intricate math problems needed to execute the Doolittle Raid. Then, when the kids go back to the classroom, they visit our online tool kit and continue learning from home.”
Since 2016, Patriots Point Education Department has partnered with the South Carolina Department of Education to offer an annual two-day conference aboard the USS Yorktown where teachers earn 20 credits towards their recertification. Nearly 100 teachers slept aboard the ship during the most recent professional development event in June 2019.
In total during fiscal year 2019, more than 27,000 students from South Carolina and beyond visited Patriots Point to participate in a science or history program. An additional 3,900 students learned leadership and flying skills in the museum’s Flight Academy. The USS Yorktown Foundation provided scholarships so that underserved students from 30 schools in 17 South Carolina counties could climb into one of the F-35 simulators.
“As our relationship with the state department of education continues to grow in the coming years, we will work hard to enhance the long-distance learning portion of our program. We are working with the state on ways to get Patriots Point on the road and into classrooms in every corner of South Carolina,” Grybowski said.
The first field trips of the 2020 school year will begin at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in late September.