The Suburbanite
  • Grant funding allows history lessons to take flight at MAPS

  • Green High freshmen students and their teachers were greeted by a host of planes and artifacts that were older then they were when they entered the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Aviation Museum.

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  • Green High freshmen students and their teachers were greeted by a host of planes and artifacts that were older then they were when they entered the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Aviation Museum.
    Overhead was a glider from 1908. In the hanger was a exact replica of a World War I Sopwith Triplane. World War II trainers, bombers, transports, and liaison aircraft sat next to each other. Korean and Cold War fighters and interceptors faced each other while planes from the movie “Top Gun” and “National Treasure” sat under a clear sky on the runway.
    And to help the students and teachers better understand what they were seeing were museum guides, many veterans, including two World War II bomber pilots.
    The students’ visit was made possible by a grant that MAPS received from the John A. McAlonan Fund of the Akron Community Foundation. The grant, for $10,000, was written by MAPS Director Kim Kovesci and allows Summit County schools to tour MAPS. It was the third grant the museum has received in the last two years.
    The first grant, received last year from the Stark Community Foundation in the amount of $15,000, allowed schools in Stark County to visit the museum. This year’s grant was doubled to $30,000 allowing even more Stark County schools to visit.
    “This grant money really helps us bring the schools into the museum,” said Kovesci, a Vietnam Veteran. “With the funding we can cover all the expenses incurred by the schools for the field trip. This includes transportation, bus drivers, and substitute teachers needed to cover classes. It is a win-win situation for the schools.”
    Summit County schools visiting the museum included Green, Coventry, Norton, Barberton and Manchester. Nearly 900 students and teachers participated. Stark County schools to visit the museum include Timken, Tuslaw, GlenOak, Perry, Alliance, McKinley, North Canton, and Canton South.
    But this is not just a day away from school for the students.
    “We have aligned our program to match the Ohio Standards for U.S. History on World War II,” Kovesci explained. “Three areas that we deal with are women in the war and the home front, racism and the Tuskeegee Airmen, and isolationism and Pearl Harbor. Each area is covered in our ‘Gallery of Heroes’ by exhibits and explanations by our tour guides.”
    Of course, the aircrafts are an integral part of the tour.
    Students got a chance to sit in a Vietnam era Mig-17 or a blimp gondola, and hear about what it was like to be a paratrooper in a C-47 cargo plane painted in D-Day markings. One student from each group even got to don a parachute and play paratrooper.
    One of those lucky students was Morgan Suponcic.
    “This was very interesting,” Suponcic said. “We got to talk with people who flew these planes. They told us their personnel stories. It was really neat.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Other students felt the same way.
    “I liked the whole thing; it was amazing,” said Mitchell Russell. “I really liked all the aircraft, this place just blows my mind. I have been to the Air Force Museum and while MAPS is smaller it is just as cool.”
    “This was a great experience,” said Gracyn Noffert. “It was so much fun. It was really cool how all the veterans come back and share their memories with the younger generation to keep the memories alive.”
    “It was really interesting and unique to come here,” said Allison Richman. “This was not a normal experience for us kids, seeing all the old planes up close. It is a lot different then just seeing them in pictures.”
    For the volunteer tour guides it was also a great experience to interact with the students.
    Don Block, a B-26 bomber pilot from World War II who flew 65 missions said he “enjoys the kids.”
    “This was not my regular day (to volunteer) but when the kids come in I try to be here for them,” Block said. “They really seem genuinely interested and I enjoy the questions. I don’t always get a lot but this group was pretty good. They were very attentive.”
    Ralph Linn, a B-24 pilot who flew 35 missions echoed his buddy’s sentiments.
    “They were absolutely great! At first, the girls were a little giggly but then they really got interested in the historical background of the planes,” Linn said. “Here at MAPS they get experiences they don’t normally get like sitting in the cockpit of a Mig-17 fighter.”
    Even though MAPS is an aviation-oriented museum the students also got a chance to see other aspects of military history.
    On display in the gallery, above a model of the USS Arizona, is a piece of the ship that was destroyed in the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
    The museum has two 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns and the students got the opportunity to elevate and traverse the weapon just as the crews did on the ground and aboard ship. There was also a fully equipped Vietnam surgical hospital set up outside the hanger. There, the students had an opportunity to see how wounded were treated in the field tried on helmets and flak jackets.
    But it was also a somber moment as hanging in the tent was a Red Cross flag with a hole in it that was made when a Viet Cong rocket hit it and killed everyone inside the tent it marked.
    For the teachers it was also a very rewarding experience to see how the students interacted with the guides and veterans.
    “Our tour guide was Don Block and he was walking history,” said Megan Miller. “The kids embraced it more since it came from a veteran. And I really want to thank Kim for getting the grant and all the volunteers who took the time to show us the exhibits.”
    Page 3 of 3 - “This was unbelievable,” said Justin Thacker. “The Gallery of Heroes was just phenomenal. I think every kid in Green should see this, especially with all the local history.”
    “It was amazing talking with the veterans,” said Brandi Keplinger. “I would love to do this every year. Talking with the veterans really helped our kids connect with them.”
    A lot of the stories here at MAPS might seem like ancient history to today’s kids. But these Green students walked away with a far better understanding of history thanks to the exhibits, the opportunity to interact with the tour guides and experiencing the planes up close.
    Any school interested in scheduling a field trip to MAPS should contact the museum at 330-896-6332 or online at www.mapsairmuseum.org. The museum is currently working on renewing their grants for next year.

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