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Pitman students pilot tour guide program at Castle Air Museum
pitman students at castle
Pitman High School history teacher Stephen Montgomery shows his students the ropes at Castle Air Museum to prepare them for their chance to lead a group of students on a tour.

Pitman High senior Ryan Hanson’s father was born on the Castle Air Force Base in Atwater so when he discovered that he could return to the site and give tours to younger students at the now Castle Air Museum through a program at his high school, he jumped at the opportunity.

“It was a chance for me to preserve family history in a sense,” said Hanson.

Hanson is just one of many Pitman High students participating in history teacher Stephen Montgomery’s inaugural program that allows students to earn required service learning hours to graduate.  Instead of volunteering at a coat drive or picking up trash in parks, students have participated in several trainings to learn about the various models on display at Castle Air Museum and the proper tour guide decorum. While the program has allowed the students to cultivate social skills, leadership experience and more, it has also offered younger students a fun and interesting way to learn. Monday marked the group’s inaugural tour as the Pitman students led Fresno area elementary students through various aircrafts and their unique history.

“I’d like them to get the chance to interact with their peers, with elementary students, and to receive the wealth of knowledge that the docents at this museum have. I want to expose them to as many connections as possible here,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery also serves on the Education Committee at the Castle Air Museum where he is spearheading an effort to reach out to locals to encourage attendance and increase awareness of the museum’s offerings.

“We have more international guests at the museum than we do here in the Valley. We’re trying to cast our net out to draw people from a one hour radius from around the Valley,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery’s dedication to the Castle Air Museum is born from a passion for aircrafts. As a student in San Diego, Montgomery paid for a semester of college by building model aircrafts for a museum. After his roommate joined the Air Force and was stationed at Castle Air Force Base, Montgomery learned of California State University, Stanislaus and relocated to the area. An airplane aficionado, Castle Air Museum has proved the ideal place for Montgomery to pursue his passion over the years.

“Everywhere I have lived there have been airplanes flying over my head. I’ve been associated with aircrafts since I was a kid,” explained Montgomery.

Montgomery’s continued interest is reflected not only in his desire to teach high school students about the same industry that inspires him, but by the fact that they possessed the same curiosity prior to learning of the opportunity.

“When I was younger I dreamt of being a pilot. That has since faded until I found out about this opportunity,” said Kailyn Gates. “It’s been great getting to learn about the different aircrafts here and then share it with younger students.”