Idaho's Shoshone-Bannock Youth to Dedicate New Observatory

May 28, 2001

LOGAN – Students at Shoshone-Bannock Junior/Senior High School will gather Tuesday, May 29 to dedicate their campus's newly constructed observatory on Idaho's Fort Hall Indian Reservation. The ceremony, scheduled for 2 p.m., will feature both traditional and modern elements, as the young astronomers, along with teachers, parents, and community members, celebrate a heritage of "stellar"

"Our traditional stories have frequent references to the stars and we thought it would be great to somehow integrate these stories with our science curriculum," said Ed Galindo, science teacher at the Shoshone-Bannock school, doctoral student in education at Utah State University and tribal member.

With help from the Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium and Utah State's Space Dynamics Laboratory, Galindo initiated efforts to secure a NASA grant to establish the observatory. Named Starhouse, the new observatory features a 10-inch telescope and will open to the general public this fall.

"Our plan is for Starhouse to be very much student-driven. Students will maintain and operate the observatory and plan events," said Galindo. "We'll spend the summer training, developing exhibits and building a web site."

Galindo, who has coordinated student-built shuttle experiments and taught science classes at the Fort Hall school for the past 14 years, said the observatory provides an ideal setting to get teens interested in science and to involve them in mentoring younger students both on and off the reservation.

"Our student drop-out rate is alarmingly high," said Galindo. "By involving our young people in meaningful projects like Starhouse, we broaden their interest in higher education and they learn a lot more than just astronomy."

Utah State professor Doran Baker and adjunct professor Ray Russell have volunteered to help the Shoshone-Bannock group with Starhouse's development. Baker will assist with the development of curriculum for the project, while Russell, an astronomer with Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, Calif., will calibrate the telescope and train students in telescope operations. Space Dynamics Laboratory is footing the bill for Russell's travel.

Amid the celebration on May 30, there will be somber notes. Starhouse will be dedicated to two former students and shuttle experiment participants, Autumn Star Pratt and Becky Edmo. Both recently passed away; Pratt succumbing to cancer and Edmo in an automobile accident.

"Some of our stars are here in our high school," said Galindo. "And some have joined the stars in the sky."