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.

McDonald Observatory continues to celebrate the 2009 International Year of Astronomy and NASA's Year of the Solar System by offering K-12 teacher IYA content in teacher workshops as part of the international Galileo Teacher Training Program. We will continue to offer this same programming throughout the 2014 workshops.

Benefits

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

How To Apply

Go to the Online Application 

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.

2014 Schedule, Fees and Information

Currently, scholarships for teachers are available for four of this summer's workshops, "Telescopes, Instruments, and Observations", "Worlds Beyond Our Solar System", "Giant Magellan Telescope", and "Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us". For these funded workshops, room and board, program fees, and materials are provided by the funding agencies listed with the workshop description below.  Funded or not, ALL of our workshops require accepted teachers to pay a refundable $100 deposit by April 16, 2014, and are responsible for their own transportation to/from McDonald Observatory. For more important information, see below.

 

Workshop Dates Grades Status
Explore Our Solar System June 19-21 K-8 Available
Telescopes, Instruments, and Observations June 23-25 6-12 Available
Worlds Beyond Our Solar System June 26-28 6-12 Available
Giant Magellan Telescope June 29-July 1 8-12 Available
Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us July 8-10 8-12 Available
Earth & Space Science July 31-August 2 8-12 Available

 

Outside funding provides full scholarships for all U.S. participants to attend "Telescopes, Instruments, and Observations", "Worlds Beyond Our Solar System", "Giant Magellan Telescope", and "Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us" 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 16, 2014 to hold their reservation.

The other workshops ("Explore Our Solar System" and "Earth & Space Science") are available at $600/participant. This fee covers lodging, meals, program fees, and instructional materials. A $100 deposit is due April 16, 2014, and the remaining fee is due as follows: "Explore Our Solar System" due May 19, 2014; "Earth & Space Science" due June 30, 2014.

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 activites will last until late hours.

All applications must be submitted by February 7, 2014. You should receive notification as to the status of your application on February 21, 2014. For ALL accepted teachers to any of the McDonald Observatory workshops, we require a $100 deposit to be made to our secure online system by April 16, 2014 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 ("Telescopes, Instruments, and Observations", "Worlds Beyond Our Solar System", "Giant Magellan Telescope", and "Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us"):

  • A $100 deposit is required by April 16, 2014.
  • 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 "Explore Our Solar System" and "Earth & Space Science":

  • The workshop fee is $600.
  • A $100 deposit is due April 16, 2014. The remaining balance is due as follows: "Explore Our Solar System", due May 19; "Earth & Space Science", due June 31.
  • 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

 

Explore Our Solar System
June 19-21, 2014
Recommended for Grades K-8
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2014
Workshop Fee: $600 ($100 deposit due: April 16, 2014)

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.


Telescopes, Instruments, and Observations
June 23-25, 2014
Recommended for Grades 6-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2014
Workshop Fee: Fully funded ($100 deposit due: April 16, 2014)

Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of McDonald Observatory with this workshop at McDonald Observatory that explores the history of the telescope and its importance in scientific discoveries over the last 75 years. Learn about instruments such as CCDs, and spectrographs, and the scientific observations that have been made with these instruments both at McDonald Observatory and with other great observatories. Build your own telescopes and spectroscopes, observe with telescopes at McDonald Observatory, and tour the research telescopes. Perform hands-on activities on how telescopes work and how telescopes and their instruments use the electromagnetic spectrum to make ground-breaking observations, as well as activities related to the history of the telescope and the history of astronomical discoveries.

Support that enables us to offer scholarships for this workshop comes from McDonald Observatory's endowments for education and outreach from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Carolyn Keenan and Charlie Gaines, Hugh Gragg, Lynn Lyles Brill, Leopold Tedesco, and Bill and Alice Wright. Scholarship covers lodging, meals, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


Worlds Beyond Our Solar System
June 26-28, 2014
Recommended for grades 6-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2014
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 16, 2014)

With over 900 confirmed planets known to revolve around other stars, astronomers are now able to learn more details about these stars and their planets. Spectroscopy is a powerful tool that is used with ground-based telescopes to complement the work done from space, including studying properties of these extrasolar planets such as what elements make up their atmospheres. Perform activities that explore light at many wavelengths. Compare these planets to our solar system. Perform activities on how stars and planets are measured. 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.

NSF provides support that enables us to offer scholarships for this workshop under grant #1313268. Scholarship covers lodging, meals, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


Giant Magellan Telescope
June 29 - July 1, 2014
Recommended for grades 8-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2014
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 16, 2014)

The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory is a partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope project. When completed in 2025, 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 8-12 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 ground-breaking discoveries.

This workshop is made possible by the Giant Magellan Telescope and McDonald Observatory's endowments for education and outreach from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Carolyn Keenan and Charlie Gaines, Hugh Gragg, Lynn Lyles Brill, Leopold Tedesco, and Bill and Alice Wright.


Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us
July 8-10, 2014
Recommended for grades 8-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2014
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 16, 2014)

We see galaxies all throughout the universe, we observe distant galaxies billions of years ago in the past. Learn how galaxies form and how some of these distant, first galaxies are different from the nearby galaxies we see today. Perform activities that explore light at many wavelengths, and how different wavelengths can be used to observe distant galaxies. Perform hands-on activities that explore how galaxies change and evolve, and how this is related to stellar evolution and the production of star dust. At night, observe the sky with the unaided eye and observe 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.

NASA provides support that enables us to offer scholarships for this workshop under grant #EO-1282003 through the Space Telescope Science Institute. Scholarship covers lodging, meals, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


Earth & Space Science
July 31 - August 2, 2014
Recommended for grades 8-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 7, 2014
Workshop Fee: $600 ($100 deposit due: April 16, 2014)

Would you like to fascinate your students about the wonders and beauty of the Earth, our Solar System, and the Universe? Join us as we explore geologic structures, comparative planetology, origin of our solar system, extra-solar planets, and the origin of the Universe. At night, observe the sky with the unaided eye and view a variety of celestial objects through telescopes at the Visitors' Center. 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.

Teachers at a 2013 Workshop
Teachers at a 2013 Workshop
Teachers at a 2013 Workshop
Teachers at a 2013 Workshop
Teachers at a 2013 Workshop
Teachers at a 2013 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: The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Carolyn Keenan and Charlie Gaines, Hugh Gragg, Lynn Lyles Brill, Leopold Tedesco, and Bill and Alice Wright. We also thank Joe and Lucy Parsley for support of the Texas Galileo Teacher Training Program. Click here for more information on creating an education endowment or making a planned gift to create an endowment.

McDonald Observatory Workshops at CAST 2014:

Thursday November 20, 2014, 8:30 - 9:30 am - "ISEA Presents: Worlds Beyond Our Solar System"
Location: Grand Ballroom D, Hilton Anatole

Thursday November 20, 2014, 10:00 - 11:00 am - "International Year of Light, 2015: Exploring Spectroscopy with the UT McDonald Observatory"
Location: Grand Ballroom B, Hilton Anatole

Friday November 21, 2014, 1:30 - 2:30 pm - "TESTA Presents: Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us"
Location: Grand Ballroom B, Hilton Anatole

Friday November 21, 2014, 4:30 - 5:30pm - "The Giant Magellan Telescope - Making Education Connections"
Location: Grand Ballroom D, Hilton Anatole