WILTON, Iowa -- A project as big as the universe is underway at the Wilton Community School District.
A proposal to build a space observatory and command center on school grounds passed its initial phase of approval on Monday, February 12th. The Wilton Observatory Project would present a new educational experience to students of all ages in the district.
Grant Harkness is leading the project with the help of his wife, Katrina, his two sons and a group of Observatory Ambassadors, which act as student-spokespersons in favor of the Wilton Observatory.
Where the observatory will be built
The observatory would be built in an unused plot of land located behind the school, to the east of the football field. The $58,000 building would have a roll-off roof that would expose a large telescope to the sky.
A command center, which would remotely operate the observatory, would be set up inside an underutilized room in the school, Harkness said. From the command center, students would be able to control the telescope, monitor databases, and identify observations to target.
It is expected that the observatory would be fully functional right before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
What the observatory offers
Harkness explained that the observatory would integrate curriculum for all students at the school, from pre-k to seniors in high school. He said several The Wilton Observatory Project Partner Information
different subjects can be reached through the observatory, including art, communications, conservation, mythology, and physics.
Students would be working not only on current projects and lessons, but would be collecting data for classes to come.
"That information is actually going to be compiled into a database where the students then in that command center... can actually go in and take apart this data and make their own scientific discoveries do their own things with it."
Harness plans to donate his own telescope to the observatory, a 12” Meade LX600ACF.
Who will fund the observatory
The entire project will be funded by contributions. The project committee is targeting social media, PTO engagement, corporate and private partnerships, as well as philanthropic organizations.
No funds are being sought from the school board.