The Robert and Mary Margaret Scypinski Scholarship Fund supports the Hagen History Center’s educational programs for school-aged children, including student field trips and attendance at the HHC’s summer history camp which began in July 2021.
The scholarship is named for two local educators. Robert, a graduate of Gannon College, earned a Masters’ Degree in Education at Allegheny College and his Administration Certification from SUNY. Robert was with the Erie School District for 44 years. He taught at Kanty Prep and Strong Vincent; was a Language Arts Coordinator for the District; was Principal at Tech Memorial, Roosevelt, and Gridley; and was a camp counselor and librarian at Camp Sherwin.
Mary Margaret was a graduate of Villa College with degrees in Biology and Chemistry. She was a library science teacher and librarian at St. Peter Cathedral Center School. She was also a cancer research assistant with Sister Eymard at Mercyhurst University and a caseworker for the American Red Cross.
In the past, children often got their first exposure to local history on a school field trip or scouting trip to the museum. They would see the Watson-Curtze Mansion.
However, with tighter school budgets, field trips are not always possible. In addition, with 43% of children under the age of 18 living below the poverty level in the City of Erie, families also cannot afford to take their children to the Hagen History Center.
Why is it important for children to visit museums? Museums open a world of imagination and exploration. “Museums teach critical thinking, empathy, and other generally important skills and dispositions. Trips to museums help get kids excited about school subjects. Museums teach subject-specific content and skills. Museums expand the general world knowledge of students. Museum visits increase students’ cultural capital; in turn, school groups help museums reach non-traditional museum goers.” (Museumquestions.com)
Museums are community centers that create community involvement and inspire civic engagement. Students who do not visit museums miss out on these opportunities. Inner-city Erie students are currently missing out on these opportunities to develop the skills described above to help them escape generational poverty.
In 2021, HHC opened two new exhibit buildings, showcasing 8 new professionally designed exhibit galleries and featuring Frank Lloyd Wright’s San Francisco Office.
The goals of the new exhibits are to continue the tradition of promoting Erie’s history and educating the community. The new buildings feature creative, interactive exhibits and utilize multi-media to engage and entertain. Children should come away with experiences that combine storytelling and education, encourage critical thinking, develop an appreciation for our heritage and pride in our community with an understanding of Erie’s rich history
In addition to museum tours, the History Detectives Summer camp is a week of education and fun in July for students in grades 6-8.
Camp starts at 9am and ends at 3:30pm Monday-Friday. Lunch is provided and there is no charge to the campers thanks to our sponsors.
Sharing their expertise on a wide variety of subjects, speakers from the Hagen History Center staff and volunteers will present daily talks to the campers on topics such as The Millcreek Flood, Erie County in the Civil War, the Underground Railroad in Erie County, The Erie Extension Canal, and the 1985 Albion Tornado.
Campers will have the opportunity to create their own exhibits using artifacts from our collections. These “pop-up” exhibits will be available for visitors to see. They can also bring an artifact from home and research it, research a WWII ancestor, and take part in a scavenger hunt.
HHC staff will take campers to selected historic sites and museums in Erie County such as the Erie Maritime Museum, the Battles properties in Girard, PA, the Wayne Blockhouse, Forts Overlook, and the Ft. LeBoeuf Museum in Waterford, PA. Transportation will be provided by the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority (EMTA) at no cost to campers.
To contribute to the Robert and Mary Margaret Scypinski Scholarship Fund, please contact Geri Cicchetti at 814-454-1813 x 34 or email@example.com.
In 2019, In partnership with the Millcreek Township School District and Westlake Middle School, all two hundred 7th graders visited HHC over four days.
Students were divided into groups of ten and were on a 25-minute schedule; 5 different topics were presented. Each stop or station was developed to be engaging and give the students a deeper understanding of history by analyzing photos, documents, and artifacts firsthand.
In the words of the teachers, “This field trip was an experience in hands-on history. Students touched real artifacts, talked to actual curators, and studied authentic documents all with connections to our collective local history. The campus of Hagen History Center is steeped in Erie culture and is a blend of state-of-the-art museum facilities and historical landmarks.” Many thanks to the staff and volunteers for their help making this possible.
Jane Ross was a 4th grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Erie. Ross was instrumental in arranging a field trip for all 4 classes of fourth graders at McKinley to come to the HHC.
Ross and 3 other teachers brought a total of 100 students which included academic students, Life Skills students (students with special academic or physical needs) and DSL students (students with English as a second language).
Ross advised HHC staff that all four teachers loved the tour of the Watson-Curtze Mansion/museum. In addition, the 9 and 10-year-olds were amazed. The students were very impressed to see how wealthy people lived at the turn of the century. These inner-city students had never seen a mansion like this before. They also had never been to a museum before. And many had never visited the west side of Erie before. This was certainly an experience they would not soon forget. The students took pictures with their phones so they could share their experience with friends and family.
This field trip was a big hit and one that the McKinley teachers hope to repeat in the future. Ross has even recommended this field trip to other teachers in the Erie School District.