Teacher Workshops

McDonald Observatory offers a spectacular setting for teacher workshops in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.
Workshops take place over three days and two nights and include telescope tours, discussions with resident researchers, and nighttime observations.  Educators experience 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 Grades Fee
Mysteries of the Universe June 17-19 8-12 $100
Searching for ET June 22-24 5-12 $100
Explore Our Solar System June 28-30 K-8 $100
Galaxies, Dark Energy, & the Universe July 29-31 8-12 $100

 

Application Process

 

Summer workshops are open to educators currently teaching in K-12 classrooms in the United States. Due to overwhelming interest in these workshops, applications are required. Applications must be submitted by February 7, 2022. After the application deadline has passed, applications will be accepted for wait list positions. Complete the 2022 Summer Workshop Application now.

Summer Workshop Information

 

On-Site Workshops

On-site workshops take place over three days at McDonald Observatory in West Texas.  Participants are provided with housing, either at the Astronomers’ Lodge on Mount Locke or in other local lodging facilities.  Lodging will be in single occupancy rooms.  The $100 workshop fee covers your portion of the cost of room, meals, and workshop materials.  Payment is due upon acceptance in order to reserve a place in the workshop.  Teachers are responsible for their own transportation to and 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.

The application deadline has passed.  Applications received after February 7, 2022 will be assigned to a waiting list for the preferred workshop.  Please consider our online Virtual Workshops.

Virtual Workshops

Space in the on-site workshops is limited and there are always more applications than can be accepted.  All teachers are invited to join in a virtual professional development workshop.  These workshops will be offered during July 2022 and will include some of the content from the on-site workshops.  Programs will include both synchronous and asynchronous content, with the synchronous portion delivered via Zoom. 

Register here for one or more virtual workshop(s).

July 5-8: Discover Our Solar System for grades K-8

Workshop Description:

Over the course of a week, using a combination of recorded videos, independent assignments, and live on-line activities and discussions, teachers will discover patterns in the Sun-Earth system and learn about planets in our solar system. Using common materials from around the house, teachers will experience great activities for their K-8 classrooms. Content includes a live solar viewing (weather permitting), solar system models, early models of the universe, and more.

This course will include assignments for teachers to do on their own, plus live sessions delivered via Zoom.  Recordings of the live Zoom sessions will be made available for those who are not able to join the live session. Participants will receive up to 8 continuing education units.

July 11-15: Galaxies and Cosmology for grades 6-12

Workshop Description:

Teachers who join us for this workshop will learn about galaxies, dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and about the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX).  Teachers will experience a series of activities centered around galaxies, dark matter, and universe expansion.  There will be live chats, videos to watch, and some assignments to do independently.  All the activities use common materials found around the house or classroom and are ready for you to share with your students.  We will take you on a virtual tour of our biggest telescope, and then conclude the week with a live chat with an astronomer.

This course will include assignments for teachers to do on their own, plus live sessions delivered via Zoom.  Recordings of the live Zoom sessions will be made available for those who are not able to join the live session. Participants will receive up to 8 continuing education units.

July 19-22: Discover Our Solar System for grades K-8

Workshop Description:

This will be a repeat of the program offered July 5-8.  Over the course of a week, using a combination of recorded videos, independent assignments, and live on-line activities and discussions, teachers will discover patterns in the Sun-Earth system and learn about planets in our solar system. Using common materials from around the house, teachers will experience great activities for their K-8 classrooms. Content includes a live solar viewing (weather permitting), solar system models, early models of the universe, and more.

This course will include assignments for teachers to do on their own, plus live sessions delivered via Zoom.  Recordings of the live Zoom sessions will be made available for those who are not able to join the live session. Participants will receive up to 8 continuing education units.

 

Payment and Cancellation Policy

 

If you are accepted into a workshop, a $100 fee is required by April 4, 2022 to hold your place in the workshop.  Scholarships are available for teachers in Brewster, Jeff Davis, and Presidio Counties.

• Cancellations received MORE than 30 days before the first day of the workshop 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.

• If you cannot attend due to illness, please contact us immediately so that we can attempt to fill your vacancy and refund your workshop fee.

 

 

Workshop Descriptions

 

June 17-19, 2022
Workshop Title:“Mysteries of the Universe: Dark Matter, Galaxies & More."
Grades 8-12
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
What are the fundamental constituents of the Universe? This seemingly simple question has a very surprising answer: over 80% of the matter in the Universe is nothing like anything we experience on Earth. So,what is this "dark matter" and how does it influence the cosmos, from our own Milky Way Galaxy, its formation, and its neighborhood to the largest scales we can observe? This workshop will focus on the mystery of dark matter and how it relates to the emergence and evolution of cosmic structure. We will perform hands-on, engaging classroom activities related to cosmology, dark matter, and galaxies to learn how scientists are 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. Lodging, meals, and instructional materials are covered by the modest workshop fee. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.

 

June 22-24, 2022
Workshop Title:"Searching for ET:Planetary Habitability and Exoplanets"
Grades 5-12
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
Astronomers are finding and learning about new planets around other stars all the time. What do we know about these exoplanets and how do we know what we know? Explore what these new planetary systems are telling us about habitability and the possibility of life in the universe. Explore properties and motions of planets, both in our Solar System and beyond. Build and use classroom models of the night sky, the solar system, moon phases, star charts 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. Lodging, meals, and instructional materials are covered by the modest workshop fee. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.

 

June 28-30, 2022
Workshop Title:“Explore our Solar System”
Grades K-8
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
Join us as we explore oursolar system through hands-on, minds-on activities that you can use in your classroom. Learn about the Sun, its characteristics and apparent motion. Explore properties and motions of planets. Make 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 educational endowments to McDonald Observatory. Lodging, meals, and instructional materials are covered by the modest workshop fee. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.

 

July 29-31, 2022
Workshop Title:"Galaxies, Dark Energy, and the Universe"
Grades 8-12
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
How do our observations of galaxies play a role in our understanding of the universe? Explore how galaxies form and evolve and what they were like in the distant past. In addition, learn how the study of these distant galaxies is part of a larger study related to understanding our expanding universe and Dark Energy, as part of the Hobby Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX). Perform hands-on, inquiry-based activities related to the properties of galaxies and how we observe them. 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 fascinating discoveries, including the HET where the ground-breaking HETDEX project is currently taking place.

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

 

If you have any questions or want to learn more, please send an inquiry to teachers@mcdonaldobservatory.org

 

 

K-12 Education Program Support

 
We are grateful to the following individuals and organizations for their support of K-12 Education programs
  • The Abell-Hanger Foundation
  • The Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation,
  • The Fash Foundation,
  • The Alfred S. Gage Foundation
  • The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation,
  • The Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation
  • The Permian Basin Area Foundation, 
  • The Semmes Foundation 
  • The Stillwater Foundation
  • The National Science Foundation.
In adddition, these endowments provide sustaining support for Education & Outreach at McDonald Observatory.
  • The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation Education Endowment,
  • The Carolyn Frost Keenan and Charlie Gaines Educational Endowment for McDonald Observatory,
  • The Hugh Gragg Educational Endowment 
  • The Lynn Lyles Brill Education & Outreach Endowment,
  • The Leopold Tedesco Educational Endowment,
  • The Pam and Rom Welborn McDonald Observatory Endowment for Education Excellence,
  • The MESA Engineering Education Endowment in honor of David L. Lambert,
  • The Bill and Alice Wright Endowment for Education & Outreach,
  • The Mary Ann Rankin Endowment for UTeach Workshops,
  • and The Mary Kay Hemenway Outreach & Education Endowment

You can help support our programs through a contribution to our Annual Fund, a Friends Membership, or planned gift.