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The 12” Meade LX600ACF is one of 4 telescopes that have been acquired for Wilton's observatory. 

WILTON —A $35,000 matching fund from the Herbert L. and Nancy M. Townsend Foundation could bring an observatory to the south side of the Wilton Schools campus.

The Townsend Foundation offers a scholarship fund through the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. The fund aims to offer Wilton students support to pursue post-secondary education.

“The Townsend Foundation has an established history with the Wilton School District,” said Grant Harkness, the project lead. “This is all in their wheelhouse. This is their scope of operation to impact and to further educational goals within the Wilton Community School District. They were interested right off the bat.”

The Wilton Observatory Project aims to transform the existing extended learning building into an observatory. Officials hope to supplement Wilton’s existing STEM education offerings.

“This is a program unlike any other in the nation,” said Harkness. “There is no other K-12 entity that will be operating a fully geared up observatory the way that we will.”

According to Harkness, the project is supposed to be fully functional just before the 2018-19 school year. And for Dory Smith, a guidance counselor, the facility cannot be finished soon enough.

“The thing I love about it is speaking to a variety of different kids,” Smith said. “I have my kids that are really into space and they are over the moon about it. But then I’ve got kids that are not necessarily space kids. I’ve got them intrigued about it too because they are excited to have a chance to look and explore for themselves.”

She said that whatever the school can do to invest students into the environment the better the instruction will be.

“I think it is just another way to motivate kids that are reluctant learners to get them excited about something,” Smith said. “To light that spark for kids looking for something to get them excited about school, it is very exciting to me.”