Teacher Workshops

McDonald Observatory offers a spectacular setting for teacher workshops in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

Our teacher workshops take place over three days and two nights and include telescope tours, discussions with resident researchers, and nighttime observations. Educators engage with inquiry-based activities aligned with science and mathematics teaching standards, practice astronomy skills under the Observatory’s dark skies, and work with nationally recognized astronomy educators. Participants receive Continuing Professional Education credits.

Workshop Dates Target Grades Fee
Mysteries of the Universe, Dark Matter, Galaxies, & More June 10-12           8-12 $100 
Explore Our Solar System July 22-24 K-8 $100
Explore Our Solar System for UTeach students and alumni July 27-29 K-8 $100
Explore Our Milky Way and Beyond August 6-8 8-12 $100

Application Process

Summer workshops are open to educators currently teaching in K-12 classrooms in the United States as well as UTeach students. Due to overwhelming interest in these workshops, an application is required. Applications must be submitted by February 7, 2020. 

Summer Workshop Information 

Workshop participants spend three days at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. Educators are provided with housing in double occupancy rooms at the Observatory Astronomers Lodge, rooms are shared with other educators. The $100 workshop fee goes towards the cost of room, meals, and all workshop materials. The fee is due once teachers are accepted to reserve their position. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation to/from McDonald Observatory.

All programs include both day and night instructional sessions, materials, daytime tours, evening observing (weather permitting), lodging, and meals.  Please be aware that some of the telescope observing activities will last until late hours.

Application Deadline                                            February 7, 2020

Teacher Notifications                                           February 21, 2020           

Payment Deadline                                                March 27, 2020

Payment & Cancellation Policy

If you are accepted into a workshop, a $100 fee is required by March 27, 2020.

  • Cancellations received prior to 30 days before the workshop begins will be fully refunded.
  • If you fail to appear for your workshop, or cancel LESS than 30 days before the first day of the workshop, program fees will not be refunded.

Workshop Descriptions

June 10 – 12, 2020: Mysteries of the Universe: Dark Matter, Galaxies & More

Recommended for Grades 8-12
, 20 SBEC credits

Fee: $100 

What is the Universe made of? We now know that most of the content of the Universe is dark and not very well explained. So, what is Dark Matter and how does it influence our own Milky Way galaxy, its formation, and its neighborhood? All of these exciting mysteries are questions we want to explore more. In this workshop, we will perform hands-on, engaging classroom activities related to cosmology, dark matter, and galaxies to learn how we’re attempting to answer these questions and more. Participants will also engage in night-time observations and tour McDonald Observatory to learn how astronomers use research telescopes to explore the Universe and make ground-breaking discoveries.

This workshop is supported in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.


July 22 – 24, 2020Explore Our Solar System

Recommended for grades K-8, 20 SBEC credits
Fee: $100

Join us as we explore our solar system through hands-on, minds-on activities that can be used in the 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, star charts and more. 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.

This workshop is supported in part by The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation Educational Endowment in support of McDonald Observatory and a grant from the Permian Basin Area Foundation.


 

July 27-29, 2020: Explore Our Solar System
- for UTeach students and alumni

Recommended for grades K-8
, 20 SBEC credits

Fee: $100 

Join us as we explore our solar system through hands-on, minds-on activities that can be used in the 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, star charts and more. 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.

This workshop is supported in part by Mary Ann Rankin Endowment for McDonald Observatory for UTeach Workshops.


 

August 6-8, 2020: Explore Our Milky Way and Beyond

Recommended for grades 8-12, 20 SBEC credits

Fee: $100 

Ever wonder what the Milky Way is made up of, and what the Universe is like beyond the Milky Way? Join us as we learn about stars in our galaxy, planets around other stars, and explore our place in the Milky Way Galaxy. Investigate how galaxies outside our home galaxy are shaped, form, evolve, and how the Universe as a whole is changing. Tour McDonald Observatory and learn how astronomers use the research telescopes to explore the Universe and make ground-breaking discoveries. At night observe the sky with the unaided eye and view a variety of celestial objects through telescopes.

This workshop is supported in part by the Leopold Tedesco Educational Endowment for McDonald Observatory and a grant from the Hertzstein Foundation.

CAST Meeting 2019

Join us at CAST in Dallas this November

 

Friday November 22
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Mysteries of the Universe - Dark Matter & Galaxies
Hilton Anatole, Room: Stemmons C, half circle

What is the Universe made of? We now know that most of the mass of the Universe is dark and not very well explained. So what is Dark Matter and how does it influence our own Milky Way Galaxy, its formation, and its neighborhood? Join McDonald Observatory educators as we explore these big ideas with hands-on models and activities. Handouts and resources will be provided.

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
ISEA Presents: Elements of the Cosmos with McDonald Observatory
Hilton Anatole, Room: Obelisk A

The present-day universe owes its rich tapestry of elements and chemistry to the stars. What have new observations related to gravitational waves and neutron star mergers taught us about the production of certain elements? Learn about the synthesis of various elements in the cosmos, with hands-on models and activities.

Saturday, November 23
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

TESTA Presents:  Solar System Models with McDonald Observatory
Hilton Anatole, Room: Stemmons A, half circle

Join McDonald Observatory as we present and model a series of scale-model astronomy lessons. Activities will be presented on the following content areas: sizes and distances in the solar system, modeling positions of solar system objects in the night sky, and lunar phases. All activities will focus on scale modeling, and some will emphasize active learning. Learn how these activities fit into content in Earth and Space Science TEKS in Grades K-5 and 6-8.


K-12 Professional Development Opportunities and Acknowledgements

Thanks to our workshop sponsors

The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, the Permian Basin Area Foundation, and 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, Mary Ann Rankin Endowment for UTeach Workshops, and Mary Kay Hemenway. Additional support is proivded by the National Science Foundation. Click here for more information on creating an education endowment or making a planned gift to create an endowment.