Educator Professional Development

McDonald Observatory offers a spectacular setting for teacher professional development in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. For the health and safety of our staff and participants, our Teacher Professional Development Workshops are postponed until summer 2021.

Join us online this summer! 

Video modules of some of our favorite K-12 astronomy activities are now available online. The McDonald Observatory K-12 education team shares some of our favorite astronomy activities and demonstrations, all designed for teachers to facilitate in the classroom, or from home. 

Grades K-8

Shadow Play
Join us as we explore shadows, learn about patterns in the Earth/Sun system, and the Sun’s relative motion in the sky in several activities.

Solar System Scale Models
Join us as we demonstrate how to build three different size and distance scale models of the Solar System. Supporting documents.

Grades 8-12

Dark Matter 
Join us as we learn about Dark Matter, how scientists detect it, and how to demonstrate it to students. Supporting documents.

The Expanding Universe
Join us as we visualize the phenomenon of the universe’s expansion using simple materials from around the house. Supporting documents

Grades K-12

Dark Skies
Join us to learn about the effects of light pollution, the importance of dark skies, and how to make smart lighting choices that protect nature and conserve energy. Supporting documents.

Follow Up Interactive Sessions 

On July 28-30th you're invited to join us for live webinar follow-up sessions. Our staff will answer questions and provide additional information about specific activities from our videos. Continuing Education Unit certificates will be provided to participants. Registration for live follow-up sessions is now available: Live webinars registration form


Teacher Workshops 

Our teacher workshops take place over three days and two nights during teh summre break 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.

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 for Summer 2021 will be available online.


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.