Student Field Experiences FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, please contact us.

How far ahead of time should I reserve my program?
We require all groups to request Student Field Experiences at least six weeks in advance.  

How many students can I bring?
All of our Student Field Experience programs can accommodate up to 60 students.  Some of our packages can accommodate up to 80 students.  We charge for a minimum of 12 students, although you may bring fewer. Capacities are listed in each program description for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  

How many adults should I bring?
We require at least one adult for every 10 students.  We offer free admission to the daytime program for one adult per five students.  Adults pay admission for optional evening programs.  All adults attending the program are expected to serve as chaperones, directly supervising student behavior.  Our behavior expectations for your students are the same as your expectations for your classroom. 

Can we eat at the Observatory?
The StarDate Café, located in the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, can provide meals for school groups with advance arrangements.  Groups may also bring a sack lunch.  You will have an opportunity to indicate your meal plans when submitting your application for a Student Field Experience. Explore the StarDate Cafe group menu to see your options.

How do we get to the Observatory?
Most groups bring a bus or teachers/parents drive private vehicles.  Please remember that your vehicles must be available during your entire visit. Directions to McDonald Observatory

Where do we stay?  Where do we eat?  What else is there to do in the area?
There are a number of places to stay, eat and learn in this part of Texas!  If you are planning to explore some of the area surrounding the Observatory, we recommend visiting the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce website.

What happens if we need to bring more or fewer students at the last minute?
We understand that sometimes your group shrinks or grows at the last minute.  Please let us know about changed to your group size as soon as you can. If your group is taking part in evening programs and your number increases, be aware that public programs have limited capacity and additional tickets may not be available for those evening programs.  If your group is taking part in evening programs and your number decreases, please let us know as soon as you can, so we can make your unused reserved spots in those programs available to others who might want to join.

Some of my students’ parents would like to take part in this field trip.  Can we bring extra parents?

It’s great that you have students with engaged parents!  We would love to have them here.  All adults who join the group visit are asked to sereve as chaperones, actively helping with group discipline.   

If you have parents who want to experience McDonald Observatory public programs during your school visit.  They can learn about, reserve and pay for public programs at our website: Please note that it is not possible for a parent to serve as a group chaperone and participate in daytime public programs at the same time.

If your student group is participating in any of our evening programs and you have additional parents or families who would like to join those programs, please have those families make their own reservations for those programs at

I have a home school group of mixed student ages and their parents.  Would this program work for us?
Of course!  We have a variety of Student Field Experience programs available for a range of ages and grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  If you are looking for something a little different, have a special request, or additional questions please contact us, and we’ll see what we can do that will work for your unique group of teachers and learners.

Are scholarships available?
Yes!  Schools located in Jeff Davis, Presidio and Brewster counties, as well as schools in the Permian Basin region (ESC region XVIII) may receive scholarships covering most or all of their program fees.  Other Title I schools in Texas may also be eligible for scholarships. We gratefully acknowledge the Permian Basin Area Foundation, the Gage Foundation, and the Fash Foundation for making these and other scholarships available.

Pricing for Student Programs

Per student $10
Per adult (one adult free per five students) $6

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

Evening Programs - Your entire group may purchase tickets for a public Star Party on Tuesday, Fridays, and Saturdays evenings for an additional $7 per student, and $12 per adult. This ticket price is additional to Student Field Experience program fees.

Your entire group may also join our Twilight Program for an additional fee of $5 per student and adult. The public Twilight Program is an engaging 50-60 minute learning experience that takes place in the theater inside the Visitors Center before the public Star Party.