Science school celebrates end of first phase |

Science school celebrates end of first phase

LORY POUNDERsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

KEYSTONE – As the adults spun in a circle standing a few feet from a red light while holding a ball with a smiley face out in front of them, they really got a sense of the phases of the moon.It was one of the exercises field instructors at Keystone Science School will use in their new yurt to teach students astronomy. And Thursday evening, community members had a chance to see the school’s latest addition, celebrating the celestial center’s opening. The school is now set up to do deep space imaging with a Celestron C-14 telescope and camera.With the new equipment, “you can really teach them a lot more than a pretty picture shows,” said Meinte Veldhuis, president of The Little Thompson Observatory in Berthoud who worked as a volunteer on the science school’s new observatory and yurt.During the First Light celebration, he took the about 150 people who attended the opening through a tour of space. He showed them images of galaxies, planets and nebulas – all of which the school’s donated telescope can locate on a night when it is not pouring snow.The new observatory and yurt are the first phase of the science school’s expansion that began this year and will continue throughout the next few years. Other phases include the renovation and expansion of the dining hall and dormitories, updates to staff housing and a state-of-the-art learning center. “It’s going to be modest,” Ellen Reid, director of the nationally recognized science school which is a division of The Keystone Center, said, adding that the expansion will be green, smartly designed and help them reach more children.The total of all phases of the project will cost about $2 million and it is being fundraised, as well as achieved through donated hours and materials. In fact, the yurt was donated by the school’s founder, Bob Craig. The telescope came from Buie Seawell. And at the First Light celebration, named after the term referring to the moment when light passes through a new telescope for the first time, Veldhuis, John Fitzgerald and Lee Henry were recognized for the volunteer work they put in to make the night sky observatory a reality.This new area that will be used for school groups and community astronomy programs fits in perfectly with the science school’s hands on-learning experience. It is set up so about six students could be in the observatory with the telescope that is stabilized on a concrete pad reaching four feet into the ground. And while some students are learning there, a group will be in the yurt doing astronomy activities and another group could be using other telescopes outside to look at constellations, explained field instructor Andrew Banks. Also, the observatory telescope is linked to a camera that sends the images to a laptop computer and has the capability to send them to be viewed on the screen in the nearby dining hall for wider-audience viewing.”I think the kids can grow much faster here … and think about the different relationships between the science,” Veldhuis said.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at

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