Air Mobility Command Museum volunteer brings history to life

Tricia Upchurch, Air Mobility Command Museum volunteer educator, gives a history lesson to a class of 7th graders Oct. 19, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Upchurch enjoys bringing history to life and speaking to students about women pioneers in military aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — Students at Dover Air Force Base Middle School were recently treated to a special history lesson.

Tricia Upchurch was filling in as a substitute teacher at the school when she noticed the students’ lesson plan included reading an article on women in aviation. She quickly coordinated with teachers and the school principal to set up a return visit.

She returned to the classroom the following day wearing the uniform of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots of

Tricia Upchurch, Air Mobility Command Museum volunteer educator, poses next to a Curtiss C-46 airplane during the 2017 Thunder Over Dover Open House and Airshow Aug. 27, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Upchurch is dressed as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot. The plane is the same model flown by WASPs during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

World War II and instantly caught the attention of the students. During her presentation, she spoke of the group’s origins in New Castle, their training, their many struggles and accomplishments, and their decades-long fight for recognition.

“Both the students and the staff enjoyed the presentation, but more importantly, it allowed the learning to come to life,” said Nicole Jones, Dover Air Force Base Middle School principal.

Ms. Upchurch is a former elementary and high school teacher from Missouri and arrived at Dover in September of 2015 with her husband, an aviator in the 9th Airlift Squadron at Dover Air Force Base.

Shortly after arriving, she joined the Air Mobility Command Museum as a volunteer educator. She is the museum’s summer camp teacher, handles all educational requests and coordinates educational outreach. Recently, the museum hosted a group of 55 home-schooled students. Ms. Upchurch designed and coordinated the tour and activity curriculum for their visit.

In late 2016, the staff at the museum came across a replica WASP uniform and decided it would be a great teaching tool. With the help of a few pins and needles, Ms. Upchurch managed to fit into the uniform. Next, she started researching the group to prepare for presentations. She quickly found out just how little information is available.

“To be honest I didn’t know very much about the WASPs … I had one history textbook that had one sentence about them,” said Ms. Upchurch. “They are a piece of history that people know very little about.”

She’s gathered a wealth of historical information to share and continues to find more. With the success of her first school presentation there are now plans to do them more often.

Ms. Upchurch confesses she still gets nervous before every presentation but it’s very rewarding.

“I love history and bringing that to life for kids … It’s fun more than anything else.” she said.

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