Where were you for the Great American Eclipse of 2017?

The students of David City, Aquinas, East Butler and Shelby-Rising City Schools will say “at school.”

Teachers and administrators planned for weeks on logistics to make sure students had a memorable experience and that their eyes would be protected during the unique experience. The Banner-Press asked the schools to share their eclipse adventure. Here's what they had to say.

Aquinas and St. Mary's Catholic Schools

At about 10:45 on Aug. 21, students from Aquinas and St. Mary’s joined other area Catholic schools at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward to prepare for the Great American Eclipse. 

Staff from the schools and the seminary were joined by family members and about 1,000 students. We started with presentations on the science of eclipses by Sr. Karen Marie of Villa Marie School.

She gave detailed scientific information on how eclipses occur and what students should expect to see during the eclipse. Fr. John Rooney of the Seminary spoke to students about the connections between their faith and science and how they need not conflict. Finally, students took a tour of the seminary, led by senior seminary students. At about 12:00, students flooded the soccer field to enjoy their sack lunch, put on their glasses, and watch the eclipse begin.

Enough of the cloud cover cleared to allow for a clear view of the eclipse. Students were amazed, watching the early phases of the eclipse as the sun’s crescent shape thinned. Students yelled to each other, “the eclipse is starting, the eclipse is starting.”

The real amazement set in as the moon passed entirely in the path of the sun, Fr. Rooney blew a whistle, and students could finally remove their glasses. Cheers erupted and students’ jaws dropped as they watched the continued movement of the moon, allowing the beautiful diamond ring effect to appear. The Aquinas seniors had been helping the younger first graders keep their glasses on and all were equally stunned for this short time period.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking, preparing students, collecting permission slips, and worrying that students might hurt their eyes, but the experience was absolutely worth it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event that the students will never forget,” said Sarah Zook, the principal at St. Mary’s Elementary.

Shelby-Rising City Public Schools

On Aug. 21, 2017, Shelby-Rising City Public School K-12 took a highly anticipated field trip to view the full solar eclipse in Gresham, a short 15-minute drive away. Gresham's location allowed a spectacular minute and 23 second view of the moon and sun’s corona without solar glasses. Also significant: An eclipse of this caliber, with totality crossing the whole continent, only happens on the same path once every 375 years.

Faculty and other helpers set up the field early before excited, solar-glasses toting students arrived at Gresham Field. Preparations included teaching the proper wearing of solar glasses and what would be happening during the eclipse event. Upon arrival. students were treated to a cookout meal during the early eclipse stages. Then they walked through multiple learning stations geared toward eclipse education. Students of all ages could do activities such as talk about the eclipse’s importance, answer trivia questions, and experience the colander trick to make crescent-shaped shadows. As time passed and totality arrived, the crowd settled and all were experiencing the event together. Seeing totality in person is beyond description. While some clouds drifted in early, the clouds cleared enough for everyone to watch totality in amazement with their own eyes. The audible reaction by the 400+ people there was unforgettable.

Key in the day was Digital Media, a video production class started this year. The eclipse provided a perfect opportunity for field experience while documenting such a rare and amazing event on video. Armed with recording equipment, a solar filter, a willingness to learn and a desire to experiment with different shots, Digital Media students were well-prepared, and it was only the third day of school! They captured many great interviews were taken of students, faculty, and other helpers to record the historic day. Video footage of the eclipse and totality should make for a great video. 

The event would not have been possible without the support of a great faculty and staff along with friendly volunteers who helped make this a reality for the entire school.  Students are already looking forward to the next total solar eclipse to cross America in April of 2024!

David City Public Schools

Bellwood Elementary kicked off the eclipse day with a presentation from fifth grade students. Students shared facts and information about what an eclipse is and why it happens. They also shared a video to prepare students. Students in grades 3 through 6 did various activities leading up to the day to prepare for this event. They also viewed the eclipse live from the playground in Bellwood. While outside the students took part in various activities while watching the movement, including the web of their hands reflecting on the ground to show the eclipse in a shadow. They followed up with a reflection sheet: They described their favorite part of the eclipse, how they felt about the eclipse, things they saw throughout the eclipse that changed. Students in grades K to 2 stayed inside and watched live feed of the eclipse online. They also participated in making eclipse hats and created a replica of the eclipse motion using the earth, sun, and moon.

At David City Elementary, Middle School and High School, students found a relaxing location around the school to view the eclipse. Students watched a video in preparation of what to expect during the final few minutes of totality. Science students took time to discuss how the amount of ultraviolet light may change during the eclipse.

Science teacher Amy Sanders’ classes conducted an experiment using ultraviolet beads to detect various ways to block or reduce ultraviolet light. During the eclipse many students recorded animal behaviors, temperature and lighting changes as well as the presence of ultraviolet light. Even though a few clouds rolled in at the last minute, the overall viewing was a memorable educational experience for the students.

East Butler Public Schools

The buses of East Butler elementary, middle and high school students were on the road early Aug. 21 for a trip to Concordia University in Seward.

Students were able to witness the eclipse, and Concordia provided information on the eclipse as it was happening. “It was a great experience for everyone,” said East Butler High School Principal Michael Eldridge.

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