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Themed Design : Air Force One Discovery center Wins 15th Annual THEA Award


The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation has announced that the Reagan Library’s Air Force One Discovery Center has won the prestigious Thea Award, which recognizes and honors excellence internationally in the creation of outstanding visitor experiences, attractions, exhibits, and places. 

In naming the Air Force One Discovery Center as the recipient of its “Learning Experience” Award, the Themed Entertainment Association described the Discovery Center as:

“…an innovative, involving and highly personal experience of presidential decision making that achieves a highly successful educational experience with the enthusiasm of compelling role playing entertainment.  The Air Force One Discovery Center sets a new immersive, involving standard for student activities at educational attractions everywhere.” 

“It was our goal to create an environment in which students are immersed in a real-life situation and have to make decisions themselves while utilizing their analytical thinking abilities in a fun and engaging way, ” said R. Duke Blackwood, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation. “Receiving this esteemed award dedicated to exciting and educational student experiences as a result is an honor the Reagan Library will always cherish.”

The Thea Award will be formally presented March 7, 2009 at the 15th Annual Thea Awards Gala, a black-tie dinner event held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California.    

The Air Force One Discovery Center, which opened on June 8, 2008, is an interactive, educational experience for fifth through eighth graders where students participate in role-playing exercises to learn how government works and how decisions are made.  Four education modules, or “sets”, including an Oval Office, Command Decision Center, White House Press Room and Air Force One Simulator set the stage for this groundbreaking immersive experience on presidential decision making. Rather than just reading about how historical figures made their decisions, students participating in the Discovery Center become the decision makers. Taking on roles ranging from the president and his cabinet to military generals to reporters, students are presented with critical issues and events in history and are asked to guide the nation. Students are then given the unique opportunity to analyze their own decisions in comparison with those of historical figures.  Over 20, 000 students will participate in the Discovery Center this school year alone, where students are not just learning history, they are making history.

Teachers wanting to find out more about this engaging learning experience, which includes free curriculum activities which reinforce learning and meet the California state standards for language arts and social studies, should contact the Discovery Center Education Team at 805-577-4159 or by emailing 

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that sustains the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, the Center for Public Affairs, the Presidential Learning Center and The Air Force One Pavilion. Located in Simi Valley, California the Library houses over 55 million pages of Gubernatorial, Presidential and personal papers and over 100, 000 gifts and artifacts chronicling the lives of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. It now also serves as the final resting place of America’s 40th President.  For more information, please call (800) 410-8354.

See also:
Museums: What do Kids Want?
Themed Attractions: Visitors are Immersed, Educated and Engaged at Air Force One Discovery Center
Teaching Themed Entertainment : Interview with Don Marinelli
The Joyful Architect: Al Cross Talks about Themed Attraction Design

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