June 04, 2020
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Woodland teacher wears lots of hats to bring students to transportation museum

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Roxanne Moore Saucier | BDN
Roxanne Moore Saucier | BDN
Sixth-graders Zoey Jones (top) and Hollie McDougal were among students from Woodland Consolidated School in Aroostook County who recently toured Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor with teacher Sandra Swan, who also drove the bus for the three-hour trip. Cole Museum Photo

BANGOR — Youngsters from Woodland Consolidated School brought along their teacher, of course, when they made the recent trip from Aroostook County to tour Cole Land Transportation Museum. The girls softball coach joined them, as well, as did the boys soccer coach.

One person wears all those hats at Woodland School — and, she drives the bus.

“I’m just a spare,” Sandra Swan said modestly regarding her driving duties while keeping one eye on her students as they took a guided tour past the museum’s locomotive, freight car and caboose.

“Our school is small,” she added. Swan never wanted to see the students miss an athletic event or other opportunity for lack of a bus-driver, so she got her license.

The teacher left a better-paying job some years ago to go into education full-time, and her enthusiasm for youngsters and for adding to their knowledge through field trips has only grown since then.

“I never knew this was here!” Swan said of the museum, to which she now brings classes regularly — sometimes as part of an overnight visit including stops for art museums and science field trips in other parts of Maine.

Items in the museum with a connection to back home draw special interest from her young charges — a fire truck from Presque Isle, a potato truck from the Aroostook County town of Littleton, a weathered sign from the state highway garage in Caribou.

“My dad, Edgar Skidgel, used to plow for the state,” Swan said. “My son plows for the town of Woodland now.”

The youngsters have their individual interests, as well.

Sixth-grader Zoey Jones was partial to the white Ford Galaxie convertible with red trim in the classic car section.

For classmate Hollie McDougal, the variety of transportation vehicles was impressive but secondary compared to “hearing the veteran from World War II. He’d made a lot of friends, and he lost some of his team in the war.”

With an older brother serving in the Maine Army National Guard, the young girl found the Veterans Interview Program a living connection between history and current events.

Swan herself has a son in the Guard, and said she planned to remind him to stop by the museum with military ID to receive a free walking stick for serving in the Global War on Terror. Sticks also are available for veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“In grades five and six at Woodland, we do American history,” Swan explained. “We’re doing the Civil War now,” one of the wars for which the Cole Museum also has uniforms and other artifacts on display.

Museum founder Galen Cole gives the Woodland teacher credit not only for driving three hours to bring her young charges to the museum, but for coming back regularly to make sure her students can take advantage of the history, civic and patriotic lessons offered by the tours and interview programs.

“These teachers are just great,” Cole said with enthusiasm as he talked about the school staffers who were involved in bringing more than 2,600 students to the Cole Museum last year. Not only has the museum always admitted those 18 and under free every day since it opened in 1990, but the museum also helps defray transportation costs for schools which request it.

The spring season of school trips has just finished up, but several classes of students from grade school through high school have signed up for visits in the fall.

“And we have the capacity for more classes to sign up,” Cole said. “Schools are welcome to call Pat at 990-3600, extension 13, to set up a date.”

Meanwhile, Cole Land Transportation Museum is open 9-5 daily through Nov. 11 at 405 Perry Road. Adults who will visit the museum this summer from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries pay $7 for admission, or $5 if they are age 62 and over.

“But kids always come free,” Galen Cole said.

More information on Cole Land Transportation Museum is available at www.colemuseum.org.