Teacher Workshops

McDonald Observatory offers a unique setting for teacher workshops: the Observatory and Visitors Center in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

Tours of the telescopes, discussions with the research astrophysicists in residence, and nighttime observations are an integral part of every workshop experience. Not only will you do inquiry-based activities aligned with science and mathematics TEKS and STAAR, you will practice your new astronomy skills under the Observatory’s dark skies, weather permitting, and partner with trained and nationally recognized astronomy educators.

All workshops include the international Galileo Teacher Training Program and certification.

Benefits

  • 20 hours or more of Continuing Education Credit for Summer workshops
  • inquiry based activities that are TEKS- and STARR-aligned
  • immersion: lunch and dinner are at the Observatory
  • meet astronomers and discuss current astronomical research
  • practice basic astronomy skills

How To Apply

Go to the Online Application 

Directions to the Observatory

The McDonald Observatory is located in the beautiful Davis Mountains of west Texas.
Click here for driving and flying directions to our facility.

2015 Schedule, Fees and Information

Currently, scholarships for teachers are available for four of this summer's workshops, "Region 18 west Texas Teacher Workshop for K-8", "Region 18 west Texas Teacher Workshop for 6-12", "21st Century Cosmology: Black holes, Big Bang, Dark Matter", and "Giant Magellan Telescope". For these funded workshops, room and board, program fees, and materials are provided by the funding agencies listed with the workshop description below. Funded or not, ALL of our workshops require accepted teachers to pay a refundable $100 deposit by April 3, 2015, and are responsible for their own transportation to/from McDonald Observatory. For more important information, see below.

 

Workshop Dates Grades Status
Explore Our Solar System ($625) June 15-17 K-8 Available
Region 18 West Texas Teacher Workshop June 18-20 K-6 Available
Region 18 West Texas Teacher Workshop June 22-24 6-12 Available
21st Century Cosmology July 14-16 8-12 Available
Giant Magellan Telescope July 17-19 6-12 Available
       

Outside funding provides full scholarships for all Region 18​ participants to attend "Region 18 west Texas Teacher Workshops", and for all U.S. teacher participants to attend "21st Century Cosmology", and "Giant Magellan Telescope" workshops only. These scholarships cover lodging, meals, program fees, and instructional materials. Participants must arrange and pay for their own transportation to/from McDonald Observatory. Scholarship participants must pay a $100 deposit by April 3, 2015 to hold their reservation.

The other workshop ("Explore Our Solar System") is available at $625/participant. This fee covers lodging, meals, program fees, and instructional materials. A $100 deposit is due April 3, 2015, and the remaining fee is due May 15, 2015.

All programs include both day and night instructional sessions, materials, daytime tours, evening observing (weather permitting), lodging, and meals. Shared hotel rooms have been reserved for registered participants only.  Participants who do not wish to share a room with another participant are responsible for reserving and paying for any other additional hotel room arrangements for themselves or accompanying family or friends. If you are participating in a workshop and will be arranging your own room, please let us know at least 45 days in advance of the workshop. Please be aware that some of the telescope observing activites will last until late hours.

All applications must be submitted by February 6, 2015. You should receive notification as to the status of your application on February 20, 2015. For ALL accepted teachers to any of the McDonald Observatory workshops, we require a $100 deposit to be made to our secure online system by April 3, 2015 to hold your reservations. If the deposit is not paid by this date, your spot will be given to the next qualified applicant.

Payment and $100 Deposit Refund Policy

If you are accepted into a funded workshop ("Region 18 west Texas Teacher Workshop for K-8", "Region 18 west Texas Teacher Workshop for 6-12", "21st Century Cosmology: Black holes, Big Bang, Dark Matter", and "Giant Magellan Telescope"):

  • A $100 deposit is required by April 3, 2015.
  • If you attend the workshop, or cancel MORE than 30 days before the first day of the workshop, your deposit will be refunded to you.
  • If you fail to appear for your workshop, or cancel LESS than 30 days before the first day of the workshop, you will be charged $100.

If you are accepted into the "Explore Our Solar System":

  • The workshop fee is $625.
  • A $100 deposit is due April 3, 2015. The remaining balance is due as follows: "Explore Our Solar System", due May 15, 2015.
  • Your $100 deposit is fully refunded if you cancel MORE than 30 days prior to the beginning of the workshop.
  • If you cancel LESS than 30 days prior to the beginning of the workshop you do not receive a refund of the deposit. You WILL receive a refund of the other funds that you paid.

Suggestion: If you are accepted for a workshop and require funds for travel, we recommend you contact your school administration or parents' organization. Some teachers have found support from local businesses and industries in their communities. And some have done fundraising events such as bake sales. McDonald Observatory does not have any travel funds available for participants. For each workshop, we post a school email address for each participant so that travel/carpooling arrangements can be coordinated.

Workshop Descriptions

 

Explore Our Solar System
June 15-17, 2015
Recommended for Grades K-8
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 6, 2015 
Workshop Fee: $625 ($100 deposit due: April 3, 2015)

Join us as we explore our solar system through hands-on, minds-on activities that you use in your classroom. Learn about the Sun - its characteristics and apparent motion. Explore properties and motions of planets. Build and use classroom models of the night sky, the solar system, moon phases, starcharts and more. Build and use your own telescope. 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.

Fees cover lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


Region 18 West Texas Teacher Workshop
June 18-20, 2015
Recommended for Grades K-6
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 6, 2015
Workshop Fee: Fully funded. ($100 deposit due: April 3, 2015)

Explore the Solar System. Learn more about our own Solar System, including the Sun, and planets. Learn about the properties and motions of both the Sun, Moon, and planets in our Solar System, as well as placing the Earth in the context of these systems; all with hands-on, minds-on activities that can be done in your classroom. In addition, explore the night sky with night-time observing of a variety of celestial objects with telescopes at the Visitors Center Astronomy Park, and during the day tour the research-grade telescopes at McDonald Observatory. This workshop is specifically offered for west TX teachers in Region 18.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation covers lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


Region 18 West Texas Teacher Workshop
June 22-24, 2015
Recommended for Grades 6-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 6, 2015
Workshop Fee: Fully funded. ($100 deposit due: April 3, 2015)

Explore our own solar system and Milky Way galaxy, as well as the tools of the trade necessary to make discoveries and observations of these systems. This workshop will offer content related to placing the Earth in the context of our own Solar System and Milky Way galaxy. Learn about lunar phases, and eclipses, and the Sun-Earth-Moon system. Learn what our galaxy is composed of, as well as our place in the larger context of the Milky Way galaxy and the universe as a whole. Explore spectroscopy and other important ways astronomers make observations; all with interactive and inquiry-based activities which can be done and transferred directly to the classroom. In addition, explore the night sky with night-time observing, and tour the research grade telescopes at McDonald Observatory. This workshop is specifically offered for west TX teachers in Region 18.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation covers lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


21st Century Cosmology: Black holes, Big Bang, Dark Matter
July 14-16, 2015
Recommended for Grades 8-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 6, 2015
Workshop Fee: Fully funded ($100 deposit due: April 3, 2015)

Discover more about exciting topics, and some of the biggest mysteries in astronomy today, including the origin of the universe, black holes, and dark matter. Through engaging, hands-on activities, learn more about what we do know about these phenomena and what we don't. Explore how these topics can be incorporated directly into lessons in your classroom. At night, observe the night sky using a variety of telescopes. Tour the McDonald Observatory research-grade telescopes and learn how astronomers use them to explore the universe and make groundbreaking discoveries.

Fees cover lodging, meals, registration, and instructional materials. Teachers are responsible for their own transportation.


Giant Magellan Telescope
June 17-19, 2015
Recommended for grades 8-12
20 SBEC credits
Application Deadline: Feb 6, 2015 
Workshop Fee: Fully Funded ($100 deposit due: April 3, 2015)

The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory is a partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope project. When completed in 2025, the GMT will be among the largest telescopes in the world, extending our exploration of the universe far into the future. The "Giant Magellan Telescope teacher workshop" will take teachers in grades 8-12 on an exploration of stars, galaxies and the origin of the Universe. Teachers will perform hands-on activities exploring the science topics the GMT will investigate and discoveries that it will make. Participants will also engage in inquiry-based activities related to the properties of light, diffraction, reflection, and how telescopes work, as well learning how the GMT is being designed and built. Tour McDonald Observatory and learn how astronomers use the research telescopes to explore the universe and make groundbreaking discoveries.

Teachers at a 2014 Workshop
Teachers at a 2014 Workshop
Teachers at a 2014 Workshop
Teachers at a 2014 Workshop
Teachers at a 2014 Workshop
Teachers at a 2014 Workshop

K-12 Professional Development Opportunities and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Our Workshop Sponsors

The following educational endowments help to support McDonald Observatory's K-12 teacher programs: Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Carolyn Keenan and Charlie Gaines, Hugh Gragg, Lynn Lyles Brill, Leopold Tedesco, Pam and Rom Welborn, Mesa Engineering in honor of David L. Lambert, Mary Ann Rankin, and Bill and Alice Wright. We also thank Joe and Lucy Parsley for support of the Texas Galileo Teacher Training Program. Click here for more information on creating an education endowment or making a planned gift to create an endowment.

McDonald Observatory Workshops at CAST 2014:

Thursday November 20, 2014, 8:30 - 9:30 am - "ISEA Presents: Worlds Beyond Our Solar System"
Location: Grand Ballroom D, Hilton Anatole

Thursday November 20, 2014, 10:00 - 11:00 am - "International Year of Light, 2015: Exploring Spectroscopy with the UT McDonald Observatory"
Location: Grand Ballroom B, Hilton Anatole

Friday November 21, 2014, 1:30 - 2:30 pm - "TESTA Presents: Star Dust - Linking Distant Galaxies to Us"
Location: Grand Ballroom B, Hilton Anatole

Friday November 21, 2014, 4:30 - 5:30pm - "The Giant Magellan Telescope - Making Education Connections"
Location: Grand Ballroom D, Hilton Anatole