News release from The History Center:
Heritage Education Fund provides free tours of History Center to students in five county area in northeast Indiana
(March 14, 2011) – The History Center kicked off its annual fund drive for the Heritage Education Fund (HEF) this month. HEF provides free tours to all K-12 public, private, parochial, and home school students, teachers, and chaperones in a five county area in northeast Indiana.
HEF was born in 2003 when funding for field trips to the History Center was eliminated from school budgets. In the fall of the 2003-2004 school year, the History Center hosted the first group of Allen County students through HEF. In 2006 the program was extended to include all K-12 school groups from DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, and Steuben counties in Indiana.
Since that time over 7,000 students have enjoyed the History Center free of charge each school year. Approximately half of those students are from elementary schools that are a part of Fort Wayne Community Schools and the other half are from other districts in Allen County as well as the four other counties named. The History Center also extends the free visitation program to all summer school groups in the above-noted five county area.
The History Center hosted a record 206 school groups in the 2009-2010 school year, the highest school group visitation total in the museum’s 90 year history. Another record year for school group attendance is projected for the current school year.
The History Center, with its collection of over 26,000 artifacts and over 45,000 visitors each year, is the largest inclusive museum in northeastern Indiana. Although dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting Allen County’s past, the History Center’s highest priority is educating the community’s youth in order to help form a caring and deeply rooted citizenry for the future.
HEF underwrites student admission fees, helps to pay for staff to develop and maintain student programs, creation and maintenance of the education materials used in exhibits and the promotion, printing, and distribution of educational materials used by teachers and students. HEF also provides funds for the Traveling Trunks program, with artifacts and educational materials for use in classrooms free of charge.
“Our exhibits include interactive elements, giving children the opportunity to handle early tools, try on fashionable attire from yesteryear, or participate in games testing their knowledge of our community’s history,” said History Center Executive Director Todd Maxwell Pelfrey.
“Through evaluations conducted on students and teachers who have participated in the History Center’s education programs and experienced the museum’s interactive exhibits, results have indicated that nearly 99% of students not only enjoy their visit, but also have learned from their experiences in the museum,” Pelfrey noted.
“The History Center’s education-based mission focuses its outreach to K-12 school children because historical museums and historical sites have assumed a more essential role with schools now focusing on test preparations,” Pelfrey added.