Teacher Workshops

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

Workshops take place over four days and three 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.

For Summer 2023, we are offering these workshops:

Workshop Dates Grades
Mysteries of the Universe Jun 12-15 8-12
Galaxy Formation - The Faint Frontier Jun 17-20 8-12
Searching for ET: Planetary Habitability/Exoplanets Jun 24-27 5-12
Eclipses and Planetary Systems Jul 29-Aug 1 3-12
Explore Our Solar System Aug 4-7 K-8

 

Workshop Application


To apply for a workshop, read the workshop descriptions below, then fill out the form found here.

Applications are due by Wednesday, February 15, 2023.  The workshop application form will take 10-15 minutes to complete.

Applications will be accepted after the February 15 deadline and will be considered for workshop waitlists.  Applicants will be notified by March 1 about the status of their applications.

 

Workshop Descriptions

 

June 12-15, 2023
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. 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 17-20, 2023
Workshop Title:"Galaxy Formation - The Faint Frontier"
Grades 8-12
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
Our Universe is filled with galaxies from near to far. What were the first stars and galaxies like? Explore how galaxies form and evolve and what distant galaxies were like in the past. Learn about brand new JWST discoveries and observations and what they are telling us the farthest reaches of the universe.

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 24-27, 2023
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 telescope 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.

 

July 29 - August 1, 2023
Workshop Title:"Eclipses and Planetary Systems"
Grades 3-12
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
In the next year, the paths of two solar eclipses will cross the United States and intersect in Texas. This workshop will cover eclipses, eclipse science, and how to prepare for and safely view the coming eclipses. We’ll explore the characteristics and properties of the Sun, Earth, Moon and other solar system objects. Then we will extend this into the science of other planetary systems. 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.

 

August 4-7, 2023
Workshop Title:"Explore Our Solar System"
Grades K-8
20 Continuing Education Units

Workshop Description:
Join us as we explore our solar system through hands-on, minds-on activities that you can use in your classroom. Learn about the Sun and moon, their characteristics and apparent motion, including eclipses. 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.

 

More Information and Application

On-Site Workshops

On-site workshops take place over four days at McDonald Observatory in West Texas, beginning in the evening of the first day, and ending at noon on the last day.  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.

Application

To apply for a workshop, please fill out the form found here.

Applications are due by Wednesday, February 15, 2023.  The workshop application form will take 10-15 minutes to complete. 

Applications will be accepted after the February 15 deadline and will be considered for workshop waitlists.  Applicants will be notified by March 1 about the status of their applications. 

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.