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Fourth-graders on field trips to the Capitol will get a new interactive, educational opportunity along the renovated Centennial Mall's "Spirit of Nebraska" pathway.

They'll be able to scan QR codes -- the square-shaped pixelated designs -- on plaques about industries, important figures and historical sites in Nebraska history that will line the mall, and more on the topics will pop up on their smartphones and tablets.

The plans were announced by state and local leaders during the Statehood Day celebration Friday morning at the Capitol Rotunda.

Nebraska’s Centennial Mall is the seven-block connection between the Capitol and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that runs from K to R streets. A $19.6 million fundraising effort is under way to pay for its renovation.

The Centennial Mall renovation group will create a website, “Nebraska Education on Location,” where students can read about the history and educators can find additional information to use in the classroom.

"This allows us to say a lot more about the people, places and things in Nebraska history than just four or five lines that fit on a plaque," said Roger Ludemann, who is helping with fundraising. "It adds a lot of depth."

Susan Larson Rodenburg said one of the goals of the mall renovation is to connect with Nebraskans and tell great stories, and this plan allows them to do that.

Plans are also under way to enhance social interactivity and other attractions along the mall by installing Wi-Fi throughout the area. 

Ideally, construction of the amenities will begin in 2014 with completion in 2015, Lincoln Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Johnson said.

"It will take about a year to do the hard construction and then time for plantings and landscaping to grow in," he said. "It would be great if it was finished early enough for it to be a well-established project by our state's 150-year anniversary in 2017."

But construction won't start until they raise the rest of $1.9 million of the fundraising goal for construction costs and an endowment to maintain the area.

Fundraisers say they've gotten donors from Scottsbluff to Omaha and everywhere in between. The statewide fundraising team of four former governors and other volunteers has raised $7.7 million so far.

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Last year on Statehood Day, the group announced the whole package, which includes streetscaping, fountains and other greenspaces.

Features will include the Capitol Fountain and Plaza featuring the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska, the Nebraska Plaza and Missouri River Fountain, the Platte River and Ogallala Aquifer plaza areas and the Sparking the Good Life Fountain and Plaza.

The mall was built in 1967 to commemorate the state’s centennial year and is visited by local residents, tourists and 35,000 fourth-graders from across the state who stop in at the Capitol every year and use the mall as part of their field trip focusing on Nebraska history.

The condition of the mall has deteriorated over the years, and it's not accessible.

The Spirit of Nebraska Pathway is a series of educational granite and bronze tiles placed along the twin walkways that frame all seven blocks of the mall.

Tiles sell for $1,000 to $25,000, with the money going to help pay for reconstruction. More information is available at NECentennialMall.org.

Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120, jpascale@journalstar.com or follow him on Twitter: @LJSPascale.

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County/City reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star

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