WILKINSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – There’s a new Center for Aviation Technology and Training along with the Tuskegee Airmen Museum at the Sherwood Event Center in Wilkinsburg, which is owned by Hosanna House, and it was created in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
From navigating simulated World War II airplanes to playing dress-up in a flight suit, kids are having fun learning what it’s like to be a pilot at the center and museum.
All of it is in the historical context of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black military aviators in the U.S. In the classroom and the exhibits, children are learning about these real-life heroes.
Eleven-year-old Connor Cutler, who was there for a summer camp through Hosanna House, said he learned, “that they actually helped us in the war when we needed it desperately.”
Kids can build their own wings and run down a painted runway, blast off with a space Plinko game, and feel what it’s like to sit in a real airplane seat, and at the same time, learn about the stories of Black pilots and astronauts who’ve lived it.
Anne Fullenkamp, senior director of creative experiences with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, helped design the exhibit for Hosanna House.
“We want kids to see themselves in these roles, so it’s really important for us to make connections to real people,” Fullenkamp said.
Khari Hicks is the center’s coordinator and said, “A lot of our children are young African Americans, and we’re not really exposed to this type of experience.”
Ten-year-old Sydney Saunders said after learning about the Tuskegee Airmen, “It makes me feel like there’s a lot of things that people couldn’t do back then that I could do now.”
Kids of all ages are learning that they, too, can become pilots and do other jobs in aviation after the Tuskegee Airmen broke barriers.
Eight-year-old Journee Turner already knows she wants to be in the military. She told KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen why: “Cause you can save lives. That’s the best part about it. It’s not just for fun. It’s to save lives.”
For older teenagers, there’s a flight simulation program where they can learn what it’s actually like to train to be a pilot, and for the younger kids, they too can try the flight simulator in the exhibit cockpit.
It’s history informing the future in this place that’s inspiring kids from kindergarten to high school to aim for new heights.
“I liked learning about airplanes cause it makes me interested in how to fly an airplane,” said 6-year-old Gregory Marshall.
And 8-year-old Millyah Griffin said when telling other kids about it, she would say, “This is a really fun place. I would say there are so many things to try.”
The center’s director who runs the summer camps said that 10 of the 12 older teenagers in their four-week special camp are now pursuing internships in aviation because they were so inspired by the experience.
The center and museum are currently open to school groups or youth-centered organizations who want to bring children. It will open to the general public in 2023. If you’d like to learn more about it, email the center director, Khari Hicks at [email protected]
For more stories like this, visit Kidsburgh.org.