Over the last nearly 20 years, the Cole Land Transportation Museum has forged a close relationship with scores of teachers throughout Maine, helping them educate school children about the pioneers who created the state’s roads and railways and about the veterans who fought and died to preserve our freedom.
The Cole Museum in Bangor, Maine, offers tours led by knowledgeable volunteers; a student-veteran interview program and essay contest ; class presentations; study guides; books; videos; and publications. Through the Galen Cole Family Foundation, the museum also supports programs that teach young people to make healthy decisions, participate in their community, and be prepared for the workforce and entrepreneurship.
Now the Galen Cole Family Foundation has taken community outreach to a new level.
In an effort to connect with prospective teachers, the foundation has provided up to eight, $2,500 scholarships for students in the University of Maine College of Education.
Scholarship recipients, who are recognized for their excellence in a teacher education program and interest in volunteerism, are asked to become involved in some way with the museum or its programs. For example, these teachers-in-training could sit in on students’ interviews with veterans; conduct guided tours at the museum; or partner with a cooperating Maine educator to create a Veterans’ Memorial, a Patriotic Community Program, or a service learning project.
“Since our relationship with schools is established initially through teachers, it seemed natural to start building relationships with them while they are learning to become teachers,” says John Simpson, who earned degrees from UMaine in 1971 and 1983 and now is Chief Executive Officer of the Galen Cole Family Foundation.
“Our mission is to improve aspirations for young people in Maine, and since the only pathway to upward mobility for many Maine children is through education, we want to help college students who may not be able to obtain their degrees without some financial aid.”
Simpson, current head of the President’s Development Council, has been a loyal UMaine supporter and has served on a number of boards and committees, including as immediate past chair of the University of Maine Foundation Board of Directors.
The scholarship program marks the continuation of a long and productive collaboration between the Galen Cole Family Foundation and the University of Maine. For more than a decade, the foundation has funded the Reading Recovery Program administered by UMaine. Galen Cole, founder of the Galen Cole Family Foundation and the Cole Land Transportation Museum, is a committed UMaine supporter who was awarded the Black Bear Award for devotion and loyalty and who headed the President’s Development Council. Three of his four grown children graduated from UMaine.
Located on Perry Road, the museum is a tribute to the pioneers who cleared and reshaped the land and constructed the highways and rail lines that allowed the state to expand beyond its seacoast. Featuring more than 200 vehicles outlining the history of land transportation and approximately 200 military artifacts and memorabilia from several wars, the collection includes farm equipment, automobiles, carriages, bicycles, sleds, fire trucks, horse drawn equipment, motorcycles, railroads, snowmobiles, snowplows, military vehicles and trucks.
To honor our nation’s soldiers and remind this and future generations of the high price veterans have paid to protect our freedom, the museum also features a Veteran Interview Program created by Galen Cole and his son, Gary, a UMaine graduate. Through the program, middle and high school students get a unique opportunity to speak directly to veterans about their life experiences. Students may choose to enter an essay contest in which they write what they learned about freedom from the veteran they interviewed. Winners get a savings bond and the opportunity to read their essay at a Memorial Day celebration at the museum.
A World War II veteran himself, Galen Cole says he is proud that he has been instrumental in connecting thousands of young Mainers with veterans who have such powerful stories.
Each year, the museum welcomes approximately 20,000 visitors from May 1 to Nov. 11. One third of these visitors are children, many of whom likely come away with a new perspective.
“Once young people see what Maine pioneers accomplished with hard work, honest endeavor and primitive tools, they can believe that, with today’s improved knowledge, advanced equipment, and similar efforts, they also can become creative doers and builders of a bright future for themselves, their communities and their fellow man,” says Cole.
In its second year, the scholarship program is proving a great way to acquaint prospective teachers with the museum and its programs. “Now, when they are hired by schools around the state, they already know about us and are excited to participate in our programs,” Cole says.
Kevin Bailey, 20, a UMaine sophomore in the College of Education, didn’t know much about the museum until he was awarded a Cole scholarship last year. He subsequently participated in a tour of the museum with students from Oak Hill High School in Oakland. He also watched while they interviewed veterans.
“I came away very impressed,” says Bailey. “The veterans gave a good account of what it was like to fight in a war and the kids were completely captivated. As a teacher, I definitely would want to bring a group of kids to the Cole Museum. It’s a valuable experience that will complement any kind of history lesson.”
College of Education sophomore Meghan Martin is another Cole scholarship recipient who sat in on conversations between students and veterans. That’s when she realized that a field trip to the Cole Museum could be used to complement any subject being discussed in the classroom.
“We got to hear about the different places veterans traveled and the language barriers they encountered, so a visit to the museum would be perfect to incorporate into the foreign language curriculum,” said Martin, 19, who plans to teach high school French and Spanish.
Image Description: Kevin Bailey '11