On-Site Student Field Experiences (Field Trips)

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.

Educational Goals

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.

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 and the Trull Foundation for making these scholarships available.

Student Behavior – Please review our expectations.

Request a Reservation!

Please plan your visit at least six weeks in advance. Click the box to begin.

Request a Student Field Experience


Pricing for Student Programs

  General Enriched
Per student K-5 $6 $9
Per student 6-12 $7 $10
Per additional adult (one free adult admission for every five students) $6 $6

Minimums - We charge for a minimum of 12 students (although you may bring fewer).

Deposit - A $72 deposit, payable by credit card, is due two weeks prior to your program date to hold your reservation. It is fully refundable if you cancel more than 2 weeks prior to your visit. Groups that fail to appear, or cancel less than 2 weeks prior to their program date, will not receive a refund.

Evening Programs - Your entire group may join the public Star Party (Tuesday, Fridays, and Saturdays) for an additional $5 per student, and $12 per adult (one free adult public Star Party admission for every five students). These are in addition to Student Field Experience charges.

Your entire group may also join our Twilight Program for an additional fee. The public Twilight Program is an engaging 60-70 minute learning experience that takes place before the public Star Party.