McDowell Mountain Elementary School Unveils One-of-a-Kind Planetarium

Fountian Hills Beth Kohoutek May 8, 2024

McDowell Mountain Elementary School Unveils One-of-a-Kind Planetarium

Nestled in the heart of Fountain Hills, McDowell Mountain Elementary School is pioneering a new era of educational exploration with the unveiling of its one-of-a-kind planetarium. As the only one in the United States, this innovative addition brings a whole new perspective to the phrase "the sky's the limit" for students.

A Stellar Vision

Valerie Reichler shares her excitement for the project, which has been a year in the making. "The kids are just loving every second of it," she says, reflecting on the positive impact the planetarium has already made on the students. The project was made possible through generous donations from the Peter and Teresa Conti Foundation and the school's PTO.

Swedish Design Meets High-Tech Innovation

The planetarium, a Swedish dome design, combines high-tech sights and sounds to immerse students in the wonders of astronomy. The space is equipped with interactive wallpaper that connects with iPads and QR codes, as well as a 105-inch touch TV that accommodates up to 40 students.

A Dark Sky Community's Dream

The idea for the planetarium emerged from the district superintendent's vision and the essence of Fountain Hills itself, a community known for its commitment to preserving dark skies.  Fountain Hills recently broke ground on a 23,000-square-foot International Dark Sky Discovery Center.  The IDSDC will include an observatory, planetarium, and theater.  The Center is slated to open its doors sometime in 2025.

Architect’s rendering for the International Dark Sky Discovery Center.

This unique addition aligns perfectly with the school’s dedication to providing students with opportunities for discovery and engagement with the universe. As students continue to experience the wonders of the night sky, the planetarium stands as a testament to the school’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of education.

For more information on McDowell Mountain Elementary School's planetarium and its impact on the community, visit Fountain Hills Unified School District's website.

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