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Ford Presidential Museum plans $15M student learning center, theater in the round


The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation plans to expand the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum (303 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids) with a $15 million student learning center featuring interactive exhibits and online access to historical documents.

A 10,500-square-foot addition on the museum's south side will offer students an out-of-classroom experience with a 360-degree in-the-round theater and an interactive model of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier. Presidential papers and documents now available only at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor will be digitized and available online.

"Additionally, we will be recreating cabinet and presidential decision-making situations…which will allow students the opportunity to put themselves in these historically significant moments," says Steve Ford, chairman of the Ford Foundation and President and Betty Ford’s son. "With education cutbacks, it is now more important than ever to help supplement schools with learning experiences related to civics, character, and principled leadership."

Funding from the Secchia-Allen Student Transportation Fund will provide transportation to and from the museum, Ford says. The learning center will accommodate full classrooms of students. The curriculum is being developed by the foundation, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University.

The board of trustees pledged the first $10 million of the $15 million goal. Construction could begin in 2013.

"Student learning is an important aspect of every generation and with such a unique time in history, it is vital that students understand problem solving and our nation’s history," Ford says. "With an increasing dependence on technology, the public, students, and academia will be able to study the Presidency from around the world."

Source: Steve Ford, Gerald R. Ford Foundation; SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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