May 30, 2024 | Karl’s Korner

USS Midway Museum's 20th Anniversary Series: Education Department

Welcome back to Midway's 20th-anniversary blog series, where we highlight a specific Museum department every month, looking back at the department’s early days and the developments it has experienced over the last 20 years.

Today, our third article in this series looks back through the history of Midway's Education Department.

Although one of the younger departments in the museum, the Education Department maintains one of the highest profiles representing Midway to the public. Building over the last two decades, Midway educators have administered projects to not only K-12 schoolchildren but also offer a highly regarded youth overnight program and adult education services, both virtually and aboard ship, as well as at San Diego State University.

Additionally, the education team provides the facilities for rare youth scouting merit badges, such as aviation, with a dedicated suite of flight simulators and radio. Because of Midway’s popularity over the years, the museum could fund bus transportation for school districts that permit class field trips on the ship. This allows children to engage in various topics designated by grade level and see the practical applications of the many subjects they learn early.

This all began when veteran educator and administrator Sara Hanscom was hired on the spot by Midway’s former president, Mac McLaughlin, even before her interview had concluded just weeks after the museum’s grand opening.  Combining a natural affinity for youth education with tenacity to see complex projects through to completion, Sara’s vision for the education department meshed perfectly with the museum’s community outreach goals.

Setting to work over Midway’s first summer, she swiftly assembled a team that included Barry Holm to manage the youth overnight program – which rapidly became an additional income stream for the fledgling museum – and Wayne Nuzzolo and John Rosas to develop curricula and manage the daytime youth programs. Wayne was fully vetted in public attraction education outreach, having had earlier stints at zoos and SeaWorld. At the same time, John served as a Disneyland “cast member,” interacting with guests in various roles at the famed theme park. Together, they and an equally committed volunteer team applied remarkable flexibility and creativity to make school programming on board Midway safe, fascinating, and relevant to schoolchildren of all ages.

The first three years were rough-hewn to accommodate visiting children on a carrier still in raw form as a museum, so altering whole sections of the ship became a top priority. To permit ample bunk space for the overnight program without interfering with extended guest tours, new bulkheads and other upgrades were installed in the forward berthing spaces in 2005.  These enhancements ensured the continued popularity of the overnight program’s activities for the children and their accompanying parents and guardians.

To upgrade and expand Midway's school programs, a breathtaking suite of state-of-the-art classrooms was crafted from former bunkrooms in the bow. These accommodated several simultaneous classes on different topics, such as the physics of landing aircraft on a flight deck and electrical circuitry. Shortly after these classrooms opened, a new frontier in adult education arose and was inaugurated in 2009: the Midway Institute for Teachers, or “MIT.”

Administered by Sacramento-based former state archivist John Burns, the MIT summer program welcomed noted university professors and veteran educators to present professional development seminars for competitively selected high school teachers nationwide. Soon, nearly 1,000 teacher-students have returned to their districts to utilize their new training. This successful venture into adult education encouraged the establishment of the USS Midway Chair for War and Society in 2019 at San Diego State University, which established a graduate school in national security matters and contributed to undergraduate education in history.

Today, alongside the stalwart Wayne and John and a talented staff and volunteer crew, the Education Department continues to thrive under the leadership of its new education director, Tina Chin, and overnight program manager, Chase Odell. Their combined efforts over the past two decades have seen more than hundreds of thousands of students engage in math, science, history, and social studies, while thousands of additional children from nearly 40 states across the county partake in virtual courses from grades 2nd through 8th. Some 3,000 families indulge in the overnight program each year from across the Western states.

Millions of dollars have been allotted for scholarships, including the newly designated Mac McLaughlin scholarship, to help offset the cost of participating in educational programs on Midway. The education department surely lives by Mac’s motto of “Onward and Upward!”

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