Student Field Experiences (K-12 School Field Trips)

A class field trip to McDonald Observatory is inspiring, educational and fun!  Accompanied by an expert facilitator trained in astronomy and science pedagogy, students learn about telescopes, science, engineering and the amazing Universe!

Educational Goals

Student Field Experiences are designed to:

  • Engage students in inquiry and hands-on activities
  • Reinforce and complement learning standards
  • Encourage student involvement
  • Enrich STEM classroom instruction

Daytime Visits

Please submit your request at least 6 weeks in advance.  

Each daytime Student Field Experience program includes an inquiry-based tour of one of our largest telescopes and two hands-on classroom or theater activities. Choose from a variety of programs with content designed for grade levels K-5, 6-8, and 9-12Student Field Experience programs can accommodate up to 60 students. A limited number of programs can accommodate groups up to 80.


PLEASE NOTE: Portions of the program require transportation; your driver and vehicle need to be available for the entire Observatory visit. McDonald Observatory is located in far West Texas.  Learn more about how to prepare for a successful visit on our Know Before You Go page. 

Evening Public Programs

Groups registered for a daytime Student Field Experience may choose to join our public Twilight Program and/or Star Party at a discounted rate. Public programs take place on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. These programs begin around sunset; check this calendar for evening program start times.

Group Behavior

McDonald Observatory is a working scientific research center. In order to ensure that groups have a safe and enjoyable visit, we have outlined the behavior expectations for students and chaperones who visit the Observatory. We require at least one adult chaperone for every ten students. All chaperones are expected to assist with group management and participation in the student field experience.

Group meals from the StarDate Café

McDonald Observatory is pleased to offer healthy food choices at our StarDate Café.  Schools may purchase meals and snacks as part of the Student Field Experience program.  All group orders must be made at least 10 days before your scheduled visit.


During nice weather, school groups eat in our outdoor Cafe courtyard.  During inclement weather conditions, additional indoor eating space is provided. Review the StarDate Cafe group menu

QUESTIONS?  Check out the Frequently Asked Questions page for more information or contact us.


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.