For Louise Moore, there is always Something More to Explore
Louise Moore had already served an expansive career of public service as a juvenile probation officer with the Reeves County Juvenile Probation Department for 24 years, as a teacher for seven years, and also as a Reeves County Commissioner (she was the first female and Black commissioner in the County’s history). But even in her retirement, Moore’s service knows no limit. Her running mantra, after all, is that there is always something more to explore.
In 2018, Moore and her late husband, Emmit Moore Jr., a retired Texas Department of Public Safety highway patrolman, searched for a new opportunity to provide for their community. The couple liked working with children: the greatest explorers of them all. They wanted, in particular, to provide opportunities to underserved kids in rural areas of West Texas. What began as a mobile STEM-based learning program has since evolved, quite magically, into something only a serious explorer could think up: a planetarium on wheels.
Moore’s husband wasn’t alive to see this galactic vision come to fruition, but their shared goal of creating learning opportunities for children of the Permian Basin thrives today with the nonprofit organization, “Something More to Explore Mobile Planetarium.”
The mobile planetarium brings the kind of STEM-based learning one can only find in big-city museums directly onto campuses and centers in rural communities throughout West Texas. The mobile learning center uses an inflatable dome and digital projector, in part, to teach children about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The concept is receiving a world of love from young explorers, and also the greater community.
Recently, Chevron representative Jonathan Harshman presented a check for $16,000 to Something More to Explore and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Superintendent Brent Jaco at the district’s school board meeting. The donation enabled the nonprofit to expand its mobile planetarium offerings within the school district to prekindergarten, elementary and junior high schools.
Harshman said he loves the mobile planetarium concept, but even more so the learning opportunities it is delivering to the “doorsteps of schools and communities in rural areas of Texas.”
“I was impressed by Louise’s understanding of the opportunities in STEM fields and careers, our society’s need for more students to prepare themselves for these opportunities, and innovative ways to expand access to STEM education opportunities in rural communities,” Harshman said.
For most people, particularly a retiree, rolling out a concept the size of a mobile planetarium would seem intimidating, if not impossible. For Moore and her late husband, it just made sense.
“We thought about our experiences growing up, things that were impactful to us,” Moore said.
Moore recalled visiting the planetarium in Lubbock while she was in the Girl Scouts, an experience she still considers a highlight.
“We thought it would be neat for other kids to experience it,” Moore said. “Not every parent can drive their kids over to Midland. We thought it would be a great opportunity to give those kids an opportunity to ask those ‘why’ questions.”
How does one go from the concept of a mobile planetarium, to actually having one?
Google it, of course.
“I went online and we started researching about mobile planetarium programs,” Moore said.
Their exploration into mobile planetariums also unearthed an unfortunate dearth of STEM-focused programs and teachers, particularly in rural communities. After their initial research, Moore traveled to San Antonio to a conference for superintendents and school board members, where she met representatives of a company that creates mobile planetariums. They broke down the costs and logistics and Moore would soon have her mobile planetarium prepped to explore rural communities.
Something More to Explore Planetarium conducted its first program at Pecos Head Start in February 2020. Moore said her 90-year-old mother, also a never-tiring explorer, helped out – and still does. Of course shortly thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic would grind progress to a halt. But, as Moore tends to do, she got creative.
Amid the pandemic lockdowns, the mobile planetarium was unable to bring its programs to children. Instead, the children were brought to the planetarium via a poster contest. Winners of the poster contest, which garnered over 200 entries, received a private showing with their family and friends of the planetarium, Moore said.
As pandemic restrictions waned, Something More to Explore began ramping up to meet the local demand for this service. The mobile planetarium has hosted presentations at the Fall Fair at the Civic Center in Pecos and collaborated on programs at Odessa College Pecos Center, Reeves County Library and the West of the Pecos Museum. The nonprofit hosts a Science Day for children at the college in Pecos, a smaller version of a program offered by the Petroleum Museum of Midland, where it collaborates with other organizations in the community and deploys high school students to support learning for younger students.
Moore warmly recalls bringing her program to Balmorhea ISD, a small community near Pecos
“The kids were outside waving at me, so excited,” she said.
Moore wants to see more of that excitement. Her plan is to expand Something More to Explore Planetarium’s programming into more rural schools, even those beyond West Texas. Raised in a small town near Abilene, Moore said she’d “love to take it to schools in areas like that.”
In her effort, the nonprofit always welcomes sponsorships. There are opportunities to help fund the nonprofit’s programming and its ongoing procurement of learning equipment. There are also opportunities to sponsor a school’s efforts to bring the mobile planetarium to its campus, or to sponsor the visit to the planetarium to visit organizations such as the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs.
What matters most to Moore is bringing the vast universe of STEM-learning opportunities to places where they don’t exist enough. “That’s the whole idea,” she said.
For Moore, exploration doesn’t just lead to enlightenment. It leads to creation. And coming from someone who created a mobile planetarium, that means something. And yet she says she has been humbled by the interest and generosity her program has received by local sponsors and school districts.
“We are very grateful and blessed,” she said. “Because of their support, we wouldn’t have the program. Everybody has been really wonderful.”
For more information on Something More To Explore and find out how to get the program onto your campus or at your community center, visit the nonprofit’s website here. For sponsorship opportunities, go here.
Find this story in audio for blind and low-vision adults 2 pm daily on The Recording Library of West Texas radio station www.recordinglibrary.org live stream.