Museum Volunteer Brings History to Life
By Mauricio Campino
/ Published October 31, 2017
DOVER AIR FORCES BASE. Del. -- 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 World War II and instantly caught the attention of the students. During her presentation she spoke of the group’s origins in New Castle, Delaware, their training, their many struggles and accomplishments, and their decade’s 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.
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. 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, 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 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.
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.” said Upchurch.