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Schools in the U.S. prepare for the solar eclipse

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Schools prepare for the eclipse on April 8 (Photo: The Associated Press)
  • Schools prepare for the eclipse on April 8.
  • It is a unique opportunity to learn.
  • Teachers and students are already looking forward to it.

Seventh-grader Henry Cohen bobbed to the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ in teacher Nancy Morris’s classroom, opening and closing his arms over the planets painted on his T-shirt.

Henry and his classmates at Cleveland’s Riverside School were all on their feet, dancing during a special class tied to April’s total solar eclipse.

Other specially invited second graders sat cross-legged on the floor and laughed as they built models of eclipse-viewing glasses, according to The Associated Press.

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The eclipse is unique learning opportunity

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PHOTO: Shutterstock

The desks and shelves were covered with dioramas with models of the earth, the moon and lanterns that acted as the sun.

Henry said his T-shirt reflected his fascination with space, which he considers a “cool mystery.”

He said the eclipse is a “one in a million chance and I’m glad I get to be here for it.”

For schools in the path of totality for the April 8 eclipse, the event has led to special lessons in science, literature and culture.

U.S. schools prepare for the eclipse

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PHOTO: Shutterstock

Some schools are organizing groups of students to see the eclipse, be overwhelmed by the darkness in broad daylight and learn about the astronomical phenomenon.

The Portville, New York school district, near the Pennsylvania border, is just outside the path of totality.

Their plan is to take the 500 seventh- through 12th graders by bus to an old stable above a valley.

There they will be able to follow the shadow of the eclipse when it occurs around 3:20 p.m. Eastern Time (2020 GMT).

An opportunity to experience the ‘natural world’

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Schools prepare for the eclipse / PHOTO: Shutterstock

According to the AP, the school’s schedule had to be modified but school district head Thomas Simon said teachers did not want to miss an opportunity for learning.

This is especially important in a time when students find out about a good part of life only through screens.

“We want them to leave here that day feeling they’re a very small part of a pretty magnificent planet that we live on…»

«…and that there’s some real amazing things that we can experience in the natural world,» Simon said.

Some schools in the path of totality will close

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PHOTO: Shutterstock

Schools in Cleveland and some other cities in the path of totality will close that day, so that students are not stuck on buses or in the middle of large crowds.

At Riverside, Morris developed a series of hands-on activities, games and models to educate and engage her students before the big day.

“They really were not realizing what a big deal this was until we really started talking about it,” Morris said.

School science curricula in every state include the phases of the moon and eclipses, said Dennis Schatz, former president of the National Science Education Association.

There is no better lesson than the real life

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PHOTO: Shutterstock

Some school districts have their own planetariums — relics of the 1960s space race — where students can take astronomy lessons.

But there is no better lesson than the real phenomenon, said Schatz, who urges teachers to take advantage of the eclipse as “a teachable moment.»

This is precisely what science teachers Anita Orozco and Katherine Roberts plan to do at the Lamplighter School in Dallas.

They will take all of their students from preschool through fourth grade to see it outside.

Getting kids interested in science

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At a teaching workshop at the University of Texas at Dallas they were told that it would be “almost criminal” to keep students indoors.

“We want our students to love science as much as we do,” Roberts said. “we just want them understanding and also having the awe of how crazy this event is.”

Handling such young children has its difficulties, but “we want it to be an event,” Orozco said.

When training future science teachers, Professor Noemi Waight of the University at Buffalo encourages them to incorporate how culture affects the eclipse experience.

A unique spectacle

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For example, for Native Americans it could be sacred event. “It’s important for our teachers to understand that,” she said, “so when they teach they can incorporate all of these elements.”

The State University of New York Brockport Friends of STEM Club plans to host eclipse-related activities.

Fourth grade teacher Christopher Albrecht hopes to get his students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“I want to show students what is possible,” said Allison Blum, 20, a physics major with a minor in astrophysics.

Teachers hope to spark interest in reading too

PHOTO: The Associated Press

“You know those big mainstream jobs, like astronaut, but you don’t really know what’s possible with the different fields.”

Albrecht wants to take advantage of his students’ interest in the eclipse to also spark a love of reading. “This is is a great opportunity to read a lot with them,” Albrecht said.

He has chosen books like What Is a Solar Eclipse? by Dana Meachen Rau and A Few Beautiful Minutes by Kate Allen Fox to read with his class at Hill Elementary School in Brockport, New York.

“It’s capturing their interest and at the same time, their imagination, too,” he said.

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