The S.F. Wessling Observatory
By Lori Larsen
In 2004 the Newaygo Conservation District applied for grants for an astronomical observatory to be built on the Kropscott Farm Environmental Center (KFEC) property. NCD received two grants, a $100,000 grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation and a $30,000 grant from The Gerber Foundation
On June 30, 2004 a groundbreaking ceremony was held and construction began. Construction was completed in October 2004 followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony, which included Earle and Mildred Kropscott. The NCD board worked with Stephen Wessling, a science teacher from the Fremont Public School System, and the newly established Newaygo County Dark Sky Astronomers (NCDSA) to coordinate and erect an astronomical observatory.
The goal of the S.F. Wessling Observatory is to provide the general public, area students and local and regional amateur astronomers the opportunity to observe and study our planet and our amazing universe. The Stephen F. Wessling Observatory contains numerous telescopes of various designs and sizes. All of this highly technical equipment is available for the public to view and personally operate with the assistance of the Newaygo County Dark Sky Astronomers. Newaygo County is blessed with “dark skies.” People from West Michigan, Northern Indiana and Eastern Illinois visit the observatory to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
In 2012 The Newaygo Conservation District received an additional grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation in the amount of $150,000 to renovate the existing farmhouse into a small apartment to rent, to create two state of the art laboratories for educational purposes, and to further develop the S. F. Wessling Observatory.
In 2015, the Kropscott barn was renovated to create a demonstration area complete with high-speed internet, LED projector, screen, and amplifier, which is perfect for large student groups.
This unique facility offers our students and the community an opportunity to see how nature, science, technology, engineering, and math all come together. The S.F. Wessling Observatory is an important part of the programming for KFEC. It expands our reach and allows us to demonstrate the outer reaches of science from the macroscopic of the observatory to the microscopic of the labs. We can compare the efficient hexagonal packing of the mirrors of the James Webb telescope to the efficient hexagonal packing of a beehive. We demonstrate that hands-on scientific education impacts students and helps key their interest in STEM education.
Note to the Retirees of Newaygo County
We can be like kids again, experiencing the wonders of the universe that surrounds us and the miracles of the soil under our feet. Both extremes offer worlds that need to be explored, and we can share it with the children who are about to inherit our planet.
Please plan to attend an open house at the Kropscott Farm Environmental Center on April 16th from 10:00 am until 12:00 pm to find out if your experience and passion match with the amazing possibilities of the KFEC. The KFEC is located at 6523 W. Baseline Road, north of Fremont.
Join us! Please!
For more information call Luke Cotton at (231)349-4455.
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