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.

K-12 Astronomy Activities for Home or School!

The McDonald Observatory K-12 education team shares some of our favorite astronomy activities and demonstrations below, all designed for teachers to facilitate from home or in the classroom. Links below lead to an activity featured on our K-12 YouTube channel, and supporting documents for teachers and students.

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.

Teacher Workshops 

Our teacher workshops include telescope tours, discussions with resident researchers, and nighttime telescope observations. K-12 educators engage with inquiry-based activities aligned with science and mathematics teaching standards, and work with expert facilitators trained in astronomy and best practices in K-12 science pedagogy. 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.