- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - A Massachusetts World War II museum announced a new education initiative on Wednesday that the founder hopes teaches children that at the bleakest moments in history, there is always hope for a brighter future.

“This museum shows human nature, so there is a real relevancy today,” said Kenneth Rendell, founder of the Museum of World War II in Natick. “We teach kids that problems can be overcome.”

The effort is being led by Marshall Carter, who left his job as principal of the prestigious Milton Academy prep school to lead what is essentially a startup operation.

Carter, a history teacher at heart, couldn’t resist the challenge.

“We’re confident that with this collection, we can teach the facts and the concepts about the war, and help children reach new insights about the world, human nature, aggression and liberation,” he said.

The lessons of the war are applicable to this day, he said, pointing to rising anti-Semitism, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the greatest mass migration in Europe since the war.

The program will bring seventh- to 12th-grade students into direct contact with original World War II documents and artifacts.

“Unlike most museums, kids can handle some of the items here, and when you put kids in close contact with powerful material, really incredible things happen,” Carter said.

The museum has also been educational in nature, Rendell said, but the new initiative will formalize the process. Rather than school groups showing up and showing themselves around, the museum will have a staff to guide them.

The 10,000-square-foot museum is planning a new, two-story, 63,000-square-foot facility with the top floor dedicated to the educational mission.

As part of the program, the museum is partnering with Natick-based MathWorks to develop technology to enhance students’ interactions with museum artifacts. The initiative is being launched through a major gift from the Shipley Foundation.

The nonprofit museum, founded in 1999, has 7,000 artifacts on display and more than 500,000 documents and photographs in its research archives. The collection includes military uniforms, flags, weapons and other equipment.

“People always say kids these days just want to play video games, but that’s just not true,” Rendell said. “They know what’s going on in the world, and it concerns them. Here, we do offer some hope.”

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Online: Museum of World War II: www.museumofworldwarii.com

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