Monday’s science lesson won’t soon be forgotten by students who watched a solar eclipse for the first time in their lives.
Some Triangle schools took advantage of the rare cosmic event to send their students outside Monday afternoon to watch the skies darken and the temperatures drop for the first total eclipse in the U.S. in decades. While the eclipse was only partial locally, it was still an impressive sight for the students who came prepared with their special protective viewing glasses.
“It was really pretty,” said Adeline Sarine, 11, a sixth-grade student at Salem Middle School in Apex. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and it’s cool that we’re old enough to experience it and appreciate it.”
Most local students had the day off because traditional-calendar schools won’t open until next Monday. But for those schools that were open for classes, it wasn’t an easy call on what to do because of the potential health risks from looking at the sun.
Some districts around the country closed schools for the day amid concerns students would damage their eyes looking at the solar eclipse.
Locally in the Triangle, some students were sent home early before the eclipse while others were kept in class until after the event.
In Wake County, it was turned into a learning day for the more than 40,000 students in year-round schools, modified-calendar schools and early colleges that were in class Monday. The Wake County school system required parents to sign liability waivers to let their children go outside during the eclipse.
At Salem Middle School, which is on the year-round calendar, teachers had been planning lessons for the eclipse for months.
On Monday, Salem’s sixth-grade students walked to nearby Salem Pond Park. Students periodically recorded measurements of the temperature and the amount of light as the totality of the eclipse neared.
“We want them to be interested in considering careers in science,” said Joyce Sugg, a sixth-grade teacher at Salem.
Teachers kept the event lively as songs such as “Blinded By The Light,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “You Are My Sunshine” played on loudspeakers. Students stayed refreshed with moon pies.
Social studies and language arts lessons were mixed in too as students learned Hindu and ancient Chinese myths about eclipses. Students performed their own versions of the ancient Chinese tradition of shouting at the celestial dragon to protect the sun.
“This is the greatest day ever,” said Joshua Madarasz, 12, a sixth-grade Salem student.
Monday’s learning event came with some angst.
Elaine Hofmann, principal of Salem Middle, said hundreds of the special eclipse glasses she had bought from Amazon were recalled. With it looking like there wouldn’t be enough glasses for all the students, she turned to the parents for help. By Monday, more than enough glasses were acquired.
“It was a lot of work,” Hofmann said. “But it’s going to be worth it.”