Teacher Workshops

McDonald Observatory offers a unique setting for teacher workshops: the Observatory and Visitors Center in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

Tours of the telescopes, discussions with the research astrophysicists in residence, and nighttime observations are an integral part of every workshop experience. Not only will you do inquiry-based activities aligned with science and mathematics TEKS and STAAR, you will practice your new astronomy skills under the Observatory’s dark skies, weather permitting, and partner with trained and nationally recognized astronomy educators. And, McDonald Observatory offers the international Galileo Teacher Training Program as part of each workshop.

Benefits

  • 20 hours or more of Continuing Education Credit for Summer workshops
  • inquiry based activities that are TEKS- and STARR-aligned
  • meet astronomers and discuss current astronomical research
  • practice basic astronomy skills

How To Apply 

Deadline to apply is February 7, 2016

CLICK HERE TO START THE APPLICATION PROCESS

 

Directions to the Observatory

The McDonald Observatory is located in the beautiful Davis Mountains of west Texas.
Click here for driving and flying directions to our facility.

2016 Schedule, Fees and Information

Currently, scholarships for teachers are available for four of this summer's workshops, "Worlds Beyond Our Solar System", "Giant Magellan Telescope", "Venga! Explore Nearby Galaxies", and "Exoplanets and Our Solar System". For these funded workshops, room and board, program fees, and materials are provided by foundations and endowments. Funded or not, ALL of our workshops require accepted teachers to pay a refundable $100 deposit by April 4, 2016, and teachers are responsible for their own transportation to/from McDonald Observatory. For more important information, see below.

 

Workshop Dates Grades Status
Solar System and Beyond June 8-10 K-8 Available
Worlds Beyond Our Solar System June 22-24 6-12 Available
Giant Magellan Telescope June 26-28 6-12 Available
Venga! Explore Nearby Galaxies July 7-9 8-12 Available
Exoplanets and Our Solar System July 11-13 6-12 Available
       

Outside funding provides full scholarships for all U.S. teacher participants to attend "Worlds Beyond Our Solar System", "Giant Magellan Telescope", “Venga! Explore Nearby Galaxies”, and “Exoplanets and Our Solar System” workshops only. These scholarships cover lodging, meals, program fees, and instructional materials. Participants must arrange and pay for their own transportation to/from McDonald Observatory. Scholarship participants must pay a $100 deposit by April 4, 2016 to hold their reservation.

All programs include both day and night instructional sessions, materials, daytime tours, evening observing (weather permitting), lodging, and meals. Shared hotel rooms have been reserved for registered participants only.  Participants who do not wish to share a room with another participant are responsible for reserving and paying for any other additional hotel room arrangements for themselves or accompanying family or friends. If you are participating in a workshop and will be arranging your own room, please let us know at least 45 days in advance of the workshop. Please be aware that some of the telescope observing activities will last until late hours.

All applications must be submitted by February 7, 2016. You should receive notification as to the status of your application on February 26, 2016. From ALL teachers accepted to any of the McDonald Observatory workshops, we require a $100 deposit to be made to our secure online system by April 4, 2016 to hold your reservations. If the deposit is not paid by this date, your spot will be given to the next qualified applicant.

Payment and $100 Deposit Refund Policy

If you are accepted into a funded workshop:

  • A $100 deposit is required by April 4, 2016.
  • If you attend the workshop, or cancel MORE than 30 days before the first day of the workshop, your deposit will be refunded to you.
  • If you fail to appear for your workshop, or cancel LESS than 30 days before the first day of the workshop, you will be charged $100.

 

If you are accepted into the "Solar System and Beyond":

  • The workshop fee is $650.
  • A $100 deposit is due April 4, 2016. The remaining balance is due as follows: "Solar System and Beyond", due May 8, 2016.
  • Your $100 deposit is fully refunded if you cancel MORE than 30 days prior to the beginning of the workshop.
  • If you cancel LESS than 30 days prior to the beginning of the workshop you do not receive a refund of the deposit. You WILL receive a refund of the other funds that you paid.

Suggestion: If you are accepted for a workshop and require funds for travel, we recommend you contact your school administration or parents' organization. Some teachers have found support from local businesses and industries in their communities. And some have done fundraising events such as bake sales. McDonald Observatory does not have any travel funds available for participants. For each workshop, we post a school email address for each participant so that travel/carpooling arrangements can be coordinated.

Workshop Descriptions

Solar System and Beyond 
June 8-10, 2016
Recommended for Grades K-8
, 20 SBEC credits

Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2016
Workshop Fee: $650 ($100 deposit due: April 4, 2016)

Join us as we explore our solar system through hands-on, minds-on activities that you use in your classroom. Learn about the Sun - its characteristics and apparent motion. Explore properties and motions of planets. Build and use classroom models of the night sky, the solar system, moon phases, starcharts and more. Build and use your own telescope. At night, observe the sky with the unaided eye and view a variety of celestial objects through telescopes. Tour McDonald Observatory and learn how astronomers use the research telescopes to explore the universe and make ground-breaking discoveries.

Fees cover lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.

 

Worlds Beyond Our Solar System
 June 22-24, 2016
Recommended for grades 6-12
, 20 SBEC credits

Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2016
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 4, 2016)

Astronomers are finding new planets around other stars at an increasing rate.  What do we know about these exoplanets?  How do we know what we know?  This workshop will focus on spectroscopy and how it applies to our discoveries of the properties of these distant worlds, including detection of the atmospheres of some exoplanets. Visit the first ground-based telescope to ever observe the atmosphere of an extra-solar planet.

This workshop is supported in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. Lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials are covered. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.

 

Giant Magellan Telescope
 June 26-28, 2016
Recommended for grades 6-12
, 20 SBEC credits

Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2016
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 4, 2016)

The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory is a partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope project. When completed in 2022, the GMT will be among the largest telescopes in the world, extending our exploration of the universe far into the future. The "Giant Magellan Telescope teacher workshop" will take teachers in grades 6-12 on a exploration of stars, galaxies and the origin of the universe. Teachers will perform hands-on activities exploring the science topics the GMT will investigate and discoveries that it will make. Participants will also engage in inquiry-based activities related to the properties of light, diffraction, reflection, and how telescopes work, as well learning how the GMT is being designed and built. Tour McDonald Observatory and learn how astronomers use the research telescopes to explore the universe and make groundbreaking discoveries.

This workshop is made possible in part by the following educational endowments: Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Carolyn Frost Keenan and Charlie Gaines, Hugh Gragg, Lynn Lyles Brill, Leopold Tedesco, Bill and Alice Wright, Mesa Engineering in honor of David L. Lambert, Pam and Rom Welborn, and Mary Kay Hemenway.

 

Venga! Explore Nearby Galaxies
 July 7-9, 2016
Recommended for grades 8-12
, 20 SBEC credits

Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2016
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 4, 2016)

How do nature and observations of galaxies play a role in our understanding of the universe? Explore how galaxies form and evolve and why they look like they do today.  Perform hands-on, inquiry-based activities related to the properties of galaxies and how we observe them. Participants will also engage in inquiry-based activities related to the properties of light, diffraction, reflection, and how telescopes work. Tour McDonald Observatory and learn how astronomers use the research telescopes to explore the universe and make groundbreaking discoveries.

This workshop is supported in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. Lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials are covered. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.

 

Exoplanets and Our Solar System
 July 11-13, 2016
Recommended for Grades 6-12

, 20 SBEC credits

Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2016
Workshop Fee: Fully funded. ($100 deposit due: April 4, 2016)

Explore our own solar system and other extrasolar planetary systems, as well as the tools of the trade necessary to make discoveries and observations of these systems. This workshop will offer content related to placing the Earth in the context of our own Solar System and in context of other planetary systems. Learn how we make these discoveries and all about the thousands of other worlds we have discovered. Explore spectroscopy and other important ways astronomers make observations using interactive and inquiry-based activities which can easily transfer to the classroom. In addition, explore the night sky with nighttime observing, and tour the research grade telescopes at McDonald Observatory.

This workshop is supported in part by a NASA grant through the Space Telescope Science Center Institute (STScI). Lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials are covered. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation

Teachers at a 2014 Workshop

K-12 Professional Development Opportunities and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Our Workshop Sponsors

The following educational endowments help to support McDonald Observatory's K-12 teacher programs: Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Carolyn Frost Keenan and Charlie Gaines, Hugh Gragg, Lynn Lyles Brill, Leopold Tedesco, Pam and Rom Welborn, Mesa Engineering in honor of David L. Lambert, Bill and Alice Wright, and Mary Kay Hemenway. Click here for more information on creating an education endowment or making a planned gift to create an endowment.