NJ Hall of Fame Mobile Museum

While the lives of New Jersey Hall of Famers Bruce Springsteen, Vince Lombardi, Thomas Edison, Toni Morrison, and others may seem quite different, they do share some similarities. Besides their connection to New Jersey, all of the inductees have exhibited perseverance, innovation, and an unwavering desire to reach his or her arête, or personal greatness. Through the traveling exhibits of the New Jersey Hall of Fame Mobile Museum and the newly created curriculum guide, students will be challenged to see what they have in common with individual inductees and to view their lives as case studies of success. This will help children identify the skills necessary to succeed and encourage them to set short-term and long-term goals.

"The New Jersey Hall of Fame leadership believes that at the core of every child's essence is a dream and an inner desire to succeed. A concept Plato referred to as Arête--actualizing one's highest sense of self,” commented Steve Edwards, president of the Hall’s Foundation Board of Trustees.

The New Jersey Hall of Fame

NJ Hall of Fame Mobile MuseumSince its inaugural class of inductees in 2008, the Hall of Fame has been honoring residents of the state while trying to form a link to the classroom. Each year nominations are received, they are narrowed down by the Hall’s Expert Panel, reviewed by the Voting Panel, and selected by a statewide voting campaign. The Hall of Fame recognizes inductees annually in the following areas: history, enterprise, arts and entertainment, sports, and a general category. Also, an Unsung Hero Award is bestowed to showcase the work and sacrifices made by individuals.

In addition, students have been invited to participate in an essay contest co-sponsored by NJEA and the New Jersey Hall of Fame (NJHOF). Two students were selected each year and honored at the induction ceremonies to recognize their efforts. These events have been wonderful showcases of Garden State pride.

The Mobile Museum: a portable field trip

Since the initial induction ceremony, it has been the goal of the Hall of Fame to create a location to not only house exhibits but also be accessible to schools and communities. The transformation of a tractor-trailer into a learning institute combined the ingenuity and creativity of 2010 inductee, architect Michael Graves, as well as Ralph Applebaum Associates. The result was a 53-foot double expandable trailer providing 850 square feet of display space.

Edwards remarked, “The Mobile Museum and the legendary New Jerseyans who are showcased in it will inspire our children to chase their dreams and passions, and to strive for excellence in all walks of life.”

 “This field trip on wheels is another first for the State of New Jersey,” said John Keegan, chairman emeritus of the NJHOF foundation. “It introduces students to the fascinating stories and inspiration of inductees while simultaneously enhancing New Jersey pride and community involvement statewide. It encourages students to innovate and apply ideas to concrete products, processes and solutions. It will make a difference in their and our lives. Thomas Edison said ‘There’s a better way to do it. Find it.’ The New Jersey Hall of Fame found it with its Mobile Museum.”

Upon entering the Mobile Museum, visitors will be able to explore aspects of New Jersey’s near and distant past through interactive and audiovisual displays. Wall displays including a medal belonging to Althea Gibson and portraits of inductees line one wall while inspirational quotes from the inductees will generate discussion for students and adults. Multiple monitors provide interactive biographical segments and induction speeches for certain inductees. This feature allows students to research aspects of their lives using the words of the inductees.

NJ Hall of Fame Mobile MuseumAn additional monitor shows a film highlighting key events and people. The “Objects of Inspiration” display allows students to view a significant object linked to an inductee’s life. The most interactive aspect of the museum can be found in the Discovery Table, which is centered on four thematic units: Speak Up, Make a Difference, Innovate, and Lead. The themes are also intended to motivate, inspire, and promote critical thinking among visitors. Each display features one inductee, an artifact from his or her life, an essential question, and a telephone on which one may listen to an information segment on the inductee. The museum also contains information on the nomination and voting process for the Hall of Fame.

The Mobile Museum had an extremely successful initial tour as it visited locations along the Jersey Shore this past July and August. In September, the museum paid its first visit to a school: Livingston Elementary in Union.

“The New Jersey Hall of Fame Mobile Museum is a great way to bring history to life for students,” said NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan. “The Hall of Fame itself is a valuable teaching tool. The curriculum is very easy to use and learning about the accomplishments of New Jerseyans is an exciting way to instill pride in our state. It also sends a message to children that they can and should strive for excellence in any field of their choosing.”

The curriculum guide: lessons linking the past, present, and future

With the unveiling of the Mobile Museum, the New Jersey Hall of Fame is also unveiling the next unit of its curriculum guide. The guide provides teachers with the framework of standards-driven instruction with minimal additional preparation. Resources will be available online for classroom use.

The curriculum is divided into three parts: a pre-visit, visit, and post-visit section. Each section allows students to investigate not only the inductees, but also themselves. There is a cross-curricula approach to goal creation and achievement in short-term and long-term settings. The guide mainly focuses on upper elementary grades through high school, but lessons can be adapted to be used with younger students as well.

The visit section provides detailed information on the museum for teachers who may not be able to complete a walk through before the arrival of students. Discussion questions are also provided to guide students as they explore the museum’s mural and interior exhibits. The heart of this section is an in-depth Motivational Scavenger Hunt that will allow students to investigate all aspects of the museum. Again, the thematic ideas of innovation, making a difference, leadership, and speaking up are the key concepts. The scavenger hunt allows students to use various primary sources found in the exhibits, interactive technology of the induction speeches and inductee biographies, as well as making real life connections to life-long learning.

In addition to the scavenger hunt, the visit section provides additional lessons for younger students as well as classes that may have limited time to view the museum. Activities vary from creating bar graphs to poem writing to interpretation of song lyrics.

The post-visit section links the previous lessons and focuses on teaching strategic planning and goal setting. While the lessons encourage students to dream big, it also forces them to think realistically on problems that may impede achievement. More importantly, it allows students to develop ideas on how to solve or reduce the likelihood of the problems that may occur.

The guide provides teachers with the option of educating students in an often neglected area, life strategies, while using avenues such as technology, research, and writing. While the Mobile Museum is a resource itself, the Hall of Fame’s website, www.njhalloffame.org, provides brief video biographies as well.

The Mobile Museum curriculum guide is an extension to the existing New Jersey Hall of Fame Curriculum Guide available on the hall’s website. This guide has three thorough units that provide teachers with a multitude of classroom extension ideas that bring history and writing from the classroom into the community. The first unit allows students to investigate the challenges that the inductees had to overcome. The second unit focuses on how to evaluate candidates in order to make an educated decision before voting for induction in to the Hall. The final unit encourages classrooms and schools to bring the Hall of Fame ideals into their schools and communities. Lessons are provided on how to research community heroes and recognize their efforts by creating a biographical newspaper and broadcast on their lives. This curriculum guide provides everything a school needs to know about starting a hall of fame display.

What’s next?

The New Jersey Hall of Fame continues to expand its services for schools and communities by collaborating with various statewide organizations including NJEA. “The NJHOF can't thank NJEA and teachers throughout the state enough for helping us fulfill our mission of celebrating our home state, honoring our legends and inspiring our children,” said Edwards.” The NJHOF could not have succeeded without them.”

With the Mobile Museum, the first traveling state hall of fame in the nation, the New Jersey Hall of Fame continues to be in the forefront of programming related to state history and recognition. Future programming will continue to educate students not only about heroic, historic residents of the state, but also how to be among the next generation of innovators and leaders. Bart Oates, Super Bowl champion and chairman of the Board of Commissioners, commented, “The Mobile Museum not only enables students to better themselves and the communities they live in, but it also instills a sense of pride in our state. Through this vision, we all have a better sense of what Jersey Pride truly means."

The New Jersey Hall of Fame Mobile Museum will be on display at the NJEA Convention. Visit www.njhalloffame.org for a current schedule of appearances as well as information on how to book the Mobile Museum for your school.

Franklin Stebbins is a teacher in the Clark Public School District and worked as a New Jersey Hall of Fame Curriculum Developer. Stebbins also serves as the public relations/PRIDE chairperson for the Union County Education Association.