Teens help younger students appreciate Oklahoma history

High school volunteers work to raise money so younger students can visit the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum for free. It helps the younger students learn important facts, like that Tom Stafford was an astronaut, not a scuba diver.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: October 27, 2010 at 11:58 am •  Published: October 27, 2010

A tour guide cozied up next to a statue of astronaut Tom Stafford. She asked the class of elementary school students if anyone knew why he was famous.

"He's a scuba diver!" one kid shouted.

Close.

To be fair, old-school space suits and dive suits look pretty similar. It was a good guess. But that's why these students were here — to learn about Tom Stafford and all the other important Oklahomans found in the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum.

The kids from Parmalee Elementary School had a chance to tour the museum through the Free Field Trip Program, which is funded by other kids.

The program started in the 2007-08 school year. The Oklahoma Heritage Association teen board was brand new and looking for a project. The economy was struggling, and teachers said their schools couldn't afford trips to the museum.

"It's something that everybody needs to experience," said Morgan Roberts, a senior at Westmoore High School and this year's chairman of the Oklahoma Heritage Association teen board. "They need to know about Oklahoma. We're not just sports all the time. We're not just music. We're everything."

The teen board decided to create the Free Field Trip Program. They organized a battle of the bands fundraiser, which raises thousands each year.

The program includes transportation, admission, lunches and other costs associated with a field trip to the museum. About 6,000 students benefit each year.

The field trips are open to any school in Oklahoma and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call 235-4458 or go to oklahomaheritage.com.

The heritage museum is home to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and all kinds of fun, interactive exhibits about important Oklahomans.

I tagged along on a tour with the students from Parmalee Elementary, who were so well-behaved. Kudos to their teachers.

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