Aug. 21, 2017

Some students will watch the solar eclipse today at home with their families, while others will take time during the school day to witness the moon cover the sun via their computers.

However, the principals at Center for Inquiry School 2 and Henry W. Longfellow Medical/STEM Middle School 28 believe this celestial event is too big of an educational experience to deny their students the opportunity of witnessing the eclipse in real time — outdoors.

CFI 2 students will watch the eclipse from the American Legion Mall (a few blocks from school), while Longfellow students will use their school’s football field as a mock observatory. All students have been provided with solar eclipse glasses and have been requested to wear other protective gear, including hats. Students without signed permission slips will watch a live stream of the eclipse from their school.

“Our kids are excited because it’s a chance for them to witness history,” said Eric Parquet, principal at Longfellow. “I think the next one isn’t until 2024, and while they’ll be able to witness that one, being able to witness an eclipse as a school-aged kid with classmates will be pretty special.”

Because Longfellow is a STEM school, Parquet said the eclipse was taught in every subject last week. In fact, Longfellow made the eclipse one of its four thematic units for the school year.

In math class, teachers talked about the distance between the moon and how the moon, despite it being smaller, can cover the sun. In social studies, they discussed the history of the eclipse and how people around the world (including early settlers) and of different cultures view the eclipse. In science, they discussed gravity, the planets and solar system. And in English, students read different passages about the eclipse.

At around 1:40 p.m. today, students, staff and 50 volunteers from CFI 2 (all who have protective eyewear) will walk to American Legion Mall to witness the eclipse. Principal Andrea Hunley said this event will bring out her students’ natural inquisitiveness.

“The big piece is that for young children, they don’t have the opportunity to observe astrological events because they all happen in the night sky when they are in bed. So this is an opportunity to see something incredible and amazing happen firsthand,” said Hunley, a self-proclaimed “astronomer” who recalls seeing her first solar eclipse through a shadow box while in grade school.

“The other piece of this is students are natural inquirers, they want to ask questions. But sometimes you don’t even know where to begin with your questions because you don’t even have an understanding of how the world works around you. We show them models and pictures of the solar system, but there’s nothing like experiencing being in orbit. Being part of a solar system firsthand is going to be a springboard for student scientific inquiry for years to come.”

Hunley said her students are extremely excited that they get to participate in today’s eclipse.

“(And) the excitement is contagious. … There’s a power to gathering for good and being in a crowd experiencing something at the same time, and they will be surrounded by 400 of their friends when they get to see this amazing experience,” said Hunley. “I’ve always been enthusiastic about the sun, moon and stars, and it’s that enthusiasm that I want our students to have as well.”