AUSTIN, Texas—The Meadows Foundation of Dallas has given McDonald Observatory $105,000 to support its K-12 educational programs over the next three years.
The grant will fund teacher professional development workshops and presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for students at the new McDonald Observatory Visitors Center near Fort Davis. Programs at the center will use astronomy-based activities to promote both the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test and the National Science Education Standards.
"We want to excite Texas students about careers in science and technology, and to provide teachers with the tools and information to do the same," said Sandra Preston, director of public information and education for McDonald Observatory. "This grant will go a long way toward enabling us to fulfill our public education mission."
The new 12,000-square-foot Visitors Center will begin hosting teachers and students when it opens early next year. Inside, a large laboratory-style classroom with advanced audio and video capabilities will be used for teacher workshops and student field-trip activities.
The Visitors Center also contains the $1.1-million interactive "Decoding Starlight" exhibit that explains how astronomers learn the secrets of the heavens, and a 90-seat theater with state-of-the-art audio and video technology. Outside, the Visitors Center includes two large telescopes in 20-foot domes, and a large amphitheater of rock benches, where observatory personnel will offer tours of the constellations under one of the darkest night skies in North America.
In addition, teachers and students will be able to tour the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (one of the largest telescopes in the world) and the Harlan J. Smith 2.7-meter telescope (a large research telescope used every clear night of the year).
The Meadows Foundation is a private philanthropic institution established in 1948 by Algur H. and Virginia Meadows to benefit the people of Texas.