It only lasted about a minute, but fifth-grader Aiden Colbert said sitting in the shadow of the moon in his school’s parking lot was the best part of the day.
“I’m going crazy,” Aiden screamed as he and his classmates at St. James School experienced a total solar eclipse on Monday afternoon.
The entire school was gathered on the blacktop: a total of 92 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade. They cheered and screamed during totality.
Aiden was sitting on a blanket with his friend Calvin Nowels, a fifth-grader. The children were listening for the cicadas in the trees, unsure of how animals would react to the daytime darkness. They were buzzing loudly, but Calvin said they stopped after a while.
“We were shaking,” he said.
Sixth-grader Tatum Stapf said seeing the total solar eclipse was a lesson in science that would stick with students.
“It’s something to remember. ... You study for a test and just forget it all, but this is memorable,” Tatum said.
It’s something to remember. ... You study for a test and just forget it all, but this is memorable.
Sixth-grader Tatum Stapf
In the hour leading up to totality, the students were moving around the parking lot participating in hands-on activities to help them view and learn about Monday’s solar eclipse. Older students were buddied up with younger students to help remind them about safety. Several parents volunteers were also on hand.
One activity had them building eclipse viewers out of cereal boxes.
At the same time, other students were modeling the moon as it slowly covered the sun using Oreo cookies, which they got to eat. Students also played a game called “eclipse ball” — kickball with a ball that was painted to look like an eclipse.
But they took a brief break in eclipse activities to sing “Happy Birthday” to their classmate Jeremy Scheibel. The eighth-grader said he was excited to see the total solar eclipse on his 14th birthday.
“God’s chosen this to be the day, so God’s looking down on me,” Jeremy said.
A group of students helped science teacher Kathy Costello come up with St. James’ activities for Aug. 21.
Sixth-graders Charly Bellanca, Alaina Lester, Erick Garcia and Tatum Stapf had been planning since last May. Seventh-grader Evelyn Gonzalez joined them this year.
“Any time you can get kids at the front leading the way, it’s just so much better,” Costello said.
Costello encouraged the students to make scientific observations throughout the day. They regularly recorded the temperature because it was expected to get slightly cooler as the moon moved in front of the sun. That data will be sent to NASA for a citizen science database used by scientists and students to study the effects of eclipses on the atmosphere, according to Costello.
Even before Aug. 21, Costello said students had been learning about the science and history of eclipses. Erick said his favorite lesson was on history. The students were challenged to act out skits based on stories and myths from different cultures about eclipses.
“It’s weird how a lot of people back then when the solar eclipse was going on, they thought it was the end of the world,” Erick said.