Feb 12, 2024 - News

Ohio kids offered free museum, historic site vites

Ohio museums and historical sites under the new incentive program
Source: America 250-Ohio; Map: Deena Zaidi/Axios Visuals

Growing up, Paul LaRue's family preferred cheap picnics at historic sites like Big Muskie's Bucket to a lavish Disney World vacation.

  • Now the State Board of Education president hopes a new statewide program will encourage families to similarly take advantage.

Why it matters: It's critical the next generation of Ohioans learn our history and where we came from ā€” and that often requires going beyond the classroom, civic leaders say.

What's happening: The program offers fourth graders free admission to nearly 20 museums and sites across the state, from the National Veterans Memorial and Museum near downtown to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati.

The big picture: This program is part of a lengthy run-up to the semiquincentennial celebration in 2026, which celebrates America's 250th birthday.

  • A planning commission known as America 250-Ohio is coordinating events, public art and historic exhibits ahead of the commemoration with funding support from the state Legislature.

How it works: Admission passes can be downloaded or printed from the group's site and can be used by the fourth-graders if accompanied by a paid adult.

  • Current fourth graders can use the passes through Aug. 31. On each Sept. 1, the next cohort of fourth graders becomes eligible ā€” and that cycle repeats until the program ends Dec. 31, 2026.

Between the lines: Youth civics education in Ohio has "lost a little bit of its punch" in favor of other major school subjects, Dublin social studies teacher Shawn Kaeser tells Axios.

  • Fourth graders are a "sweet spot" for this project, Kaeser adds, because they are capable readers and learners by that point and have a lifetime of discovery ahead.
  • Best of all, LaRue says, these trips are affordable and accessible to all Ohioans.

What's next: America 250-Ohio hopes to add more eligible sites for fourth graders to visit and eventually extend the program beyond the semiquincentennial, spokesperson Chris Hurtubise tells us.

  • Separately, the commission will soon release "Trails and Tales" guides for the general public that will feature travel spots based on various themes, such as our connection to space travel.
  • Also in the works is a youth citizenry program to teach kids about history, government and community volunteering.
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