New York State Museum Week, held May 31 through June 6, saw hundreds of museums give back to their communities through events, programs, and lectures.
In keeping with our mission of promoting education, the Friends were eager to participate in this statewide event. We invited students from the local Lake Avenue Elementary School in Saratoga Springs for a field trip to the military museum, where they were greeted by Friends member and retired school principal Hattie Finch and Friends board member and Lt. Col. Paul Fanning.
The third graders enjoyed a special presentation during their trip, discussing the lives of children in modern Afghanistan. Fanning, a retired National Guard officer, talked to the students about the children of Afghanistan and displayed paintings created by Afghan boys and girls he brought home in 2008. Three such paintings, created by children from the Marefat School in Kabul, are part of the standing Afghanistan display in the exhibition hall.
The children enjoyed looking at the paintings created by other students just like them. “They’re not that different from us.”
Along with art, Fanning also discussed poverty, dangerous conditions, and need by Afghans of all ages for medical and humanitarian support. He asked the students if they’ve ever needed a dentist or been taken to the emergency room. Then he asked how they’d feel if they couldn’t go. “It would be scary!” said one Lake Avenue third grader.
“Afghan children and other family members — we tried to care for them because if we didn’t do that, they wouldn’t get any,” said Fanning.
The presentation included a review of the World Trade Center attacks– which is also part of the Museum’s exhibits — and then explained how that event led to the deployment of National Guard troops from New York to overseas. The children were especially interested in learning about September 11, although they are were not even alive during the attack.
“Speaking about the National Guard and the military to various schools groups was long a part of my duties as a public affairs officer,” said Fanning. “During my mission to Afghanistan I deliberately gathered photos, video and artifacts for the Military Museum and for use in public presentations,” he added.
“I wanted to engage the students in a discussion and focus on things they could relate to and understand easily,” he continued. “It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to engage with young people this way and to be able to help carry out the educational mission of the Museum.”