A class field trip to McDonald Observatory is inspiring, educational, and fun! Accompanied by an expert guide, students learn about huge telescopes, science and engineering, and the amazing universe.
General Program - 80 Students Max
Our General Program includes three basic elements:
- Explore McDonald Observatory and see the 2.7m (107-inch) Harlan Smith Telescope
- Decode Starlight in the Exhibit Hall
- Investigate Our Star, the Sun
Enriched Program - 30 Students Max
An optional Enriched Program adds a fourth element:
- A Guided, Hands-On Group Activity in our Multimedia Classroom
See a menu of available classroom activities.
Both our General and Enriched Student Field Experiences:
- Engage students in inquiry and hands-on activities
- Reinforce and complement learning standards and tests (TEKS, NSES)
- Encourage teacher involvement
A Daytime Visit
McDonald Observatory is in West Texas. Your visit begins at our Visitors Center. Later, you will drive up to the mountain summit in the vehicle (typically a bus) that brought you to the observatory.
We will provide a custom itinerary when you register to visit. Use our pre-visit and post-visit activities to engage students before and after your trip.
Stay for the Evening!
Consider joining a public Twilight Program and/or Star Party (offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays).
The Fine Print
Capacity – 80 students max for General Program, 30 students Max for Enriched Program. We can present two programs in a day, starting at different times.
Adult Teachers & Chaperones – One adult must accompany every ten students. One adult receives free Student Field Experience admission for every five students. Adults pay admission to optional evening programs.
Transportation – You are responsible for your group’s transportation to, from, and while at McDonald Observatory.
Lunch and/or Dinner Meals - There is much to explore and discover at the UT McDonald Observatory so please promote healthy food and hydration choices for your students' learning. For all morning start times, a 45-minute lunch period is included in your Student Field Experience (SFE) schedule. For all afternoon start times, a lunch period is not included in your SFE schedule, so make sure to have lunch before all afternoon programs. The StarDate Cafe, located in the Visitors Center, can provide a school group lunch with advance arrangements. The nearest restaurants are 17 miles away, and there is no fast food within 50 miles. For this reason, we require school groups with schedules that bridge the lunch hour to dine on site. These groups may bring a sack lunch or dine at the Star Date Cafe. When submitting a request for an SFE, you will have the opportunity to indicate your lunch plans. For school groups staying for evening public programs, such as the Twilight Program and Star Party, the StarDate Cafe can provide a dinner meal by advance arrangements.
Fees – See the blue box to the right. Scholarships covering fees are available for schools in Jeff Davis, Presidio, and Brewster counties, as well as schools in the Permian Basin region. We gratefully acknowledge the Permian Basin Area Foundation, the Trull Foundation, and the Fash Foundation for making these and other scholarships available.
Student Behavior – Our behavior expectations of your students while at McDonald Observatory are the same as your expectations for your classroom. We require at least one adult chaperone per ten students, and we expect those adult chaperones to directly supervise your students’ behavior. We strongly encourage you to invite only those parents who are willing to assist in supervising student behavior. Guidelines for student behavior are detailed in the Behavior Expectations form located in the Pre and Post Visit page.
Request a Reservation!
Please plan your visit at least six weeks in advance. Click the box to begin.
Request a Student Field Experience