AEP Texas Funds Scholarships for West Texas Schools to Bring K-12 Students to McDonald Observatory

17 February 2009

FORT DAVIS, Texas — AEP Texas has provided $3,000 to fund scholarships to McDonald Observatory by West Texas elementary and secondary schools this school year. The funds will benefit students from the Fort Davis, Alpine, Marfa, Valentine, and Presidio areas.

“We’re grateful to AEP Texas for this scholarship funding,” said McDonald Observatory Director Dr. David L. Lambert. “They have long been a strong supporter of our public outreach and education programs.”

The donation will allow West Texas students to participate in the Observatory’s Student Field Experiences Program at no cost to them or their schools. 

“Students and their educators will be immersed in this modern scientific and astronomical research environment,” said Marc Wetzel, the Observatory’s Education Coordinator. “They will participate in hands-on activities, tours of the large telescopes, and live observations of the Sun. All of these activities are based on state and national science teaching standards.” Those standards are known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and the National Science Education Standards.

“This grant from AEP Texas tackles the growing need that many in Texas, including the students from the underserved rural towns of West Texas, have for improved science education and access to resources that are standards based,” said Sandra Preston, McDonald Observatory’s Assistant Director for Education and Outreach. “These programs inspire enthusiasm for science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.”

From 2006 to 2008, the education staff at McDonald Observatory’s Frank N. Bash Visitors Center welcomed more than 3,700 elementary and secondary students from the rural towns of West Texas surrounding the Observatory.

Established in 1932, The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, hosts multiple telescopes undertaking a wide range of astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States. McDonald is home to the consortium-run Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world’s largest, which will soon be upgraded to begin the HET Dark Energy Experiment. An internationally known leader in astronomy education and outreach, McDonald Observatory is also pioneering the next generation of astronomical research as a founding partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

— END —

Schools Contact: Marc Wetzel, McDonald Observatory Education Coordinator, 432-426-3672.