• Schools emphasize safety during eclipse

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Bradley Elementary School Educational Theater Instructor Rick Funk said planning for Unified School District 207 students to experience the total solar eclipse Aug. 21 began with ordering eclipse glasses at the end of 2016. He said planning ranged from district-wide considerations for student safety to designing exclusive eclipse T-shirts and managing activities at each of the schools on the day of the event.
    “We wanted to make sure the students and staff were safe, and we also wanted to make sure that everyone would be able to go outside to view this once-in-a-lifetime event,” Funk said. “We placed the fifth- and sixth-graders with the pre-k and kindergarten to have them help (younger students) with the eclipse glasses.”
    At 12:40 p.m. Aug. 21, Patton Junior High School Principal Ryan Wiebe announced for teachers to take students outside to the football field and track to view the eclipse.
    Maj. Tony Thompson, a maneuver coach trainer with Operations Group Sierra, Mission Command Training Program, was at Patton to experience the event with his daughter Chloe, a seventh-grader.
    “My wife is over at MacArthur (Elementary School) with our other two children, and I am here at Patton with my oldest to see it together with her,” Thompson said. “I have never experienced an eclipse.”
    Chloe said she hoped the clouds would not diminish the experience. She said her father had an application on his phone that charted the location of the eclipse.
    “It’s cloudy, but there are some pockets of open sky,” Chloe said. “The eclipse glasses are so dark that if you wear them under normal conditions, you can’t see where you are going.”
    Funk said the district encouraged parents to come and view the eclipse with their children at the schools. He said, despite the cloud-cover, the ongoing communication with students, teachers and family members helped the event evolve into an active learning experience.
    “At the end of last schoolyear, I gave an eclipse presentation to all of the students,” Funk said. “We did this at the end of last schoolyear because I would not be able to get everyone to the planetarium before the eclipse happened at the beginning of this year.”
    Funk said a letter to parents also sent during the last week of the past schoolyear contained information about the eclipse and eye safety. He said a collaboration with USD 207 Technology Media Specialist Matthew Dixon produced a short safety video that was made available on the USD 207 website and social media pages.
    “The video played during the morning announcements at the schools, too,” Funk said. “(Technology, engineering, art, math and science) teachers discussed eye safety with the students during their individual TEAMS classes. I wanted to make sure that the students knew the correct way to put glasses on and take them off.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Funk said the collective safety steps that were taken in advance also showed district parents how staff prepared students for the eclipse event.
    David Kern, the TEAMS Lab instructor at Bradley Elementary School, said he used the 3-D printers incorporated into his fifth- and sixth-grade curriculum to produce pinhole projectors from designs obtained from the NASA.gov website.
    “I printed these in the hopes that students whose parents don’t feel comfortable allowing their child to view the eclipse through glasses will allow them to view the eclipse using the pinhole projectors,” Kern said. “I do not want any of our students or families to miss this opportunity.”
    Kern said each of the TEAMS Lab classes at Bradley Elementary School, and at the other district schools took part in an informational lesson in the classroom. He said many groups also watched the Brainpop video relating to eclipses.
    “We covered what a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse are, how the celestial bodies (Earth, sun and moon) are aligned during those events, and how these events are different from a full moon and a new moon,” Kern said. “I was also sure to spend a considerable time discussing proper safety procedures as well as our school plan for the day of (the) event so that students know what to expect.”
    Sheryl Ryberg is staying with her active-duty son’s family for a year. She was invited to Patton Junior High School to view the eclipse with her seventh-grade grandson and provided her impressions before the event.
    “This is a first for me to be in the direct path like this,” Ryberg said. “We got to see a partial eclipse while we were in Florida.”
    Patton Junior High School Curriculum Instructional Specialist Jennifer Heronema said the eclipse is an exciting event to experience with students and community. She said being able to provide a space at the school for viewing was significant.
    “We have the approved (International Organization for Standardization 12312-2 safety standard) eclipse glasses to protect students’ eyes if the sun does appear directly,” Heronema said. “A horn signals when it is safe to take off the glasses and also when to put them back on.”
    Kern said other district personnel and resources came together to accomplish specific teaching objectives. He said students in grades kindergarten through sixth participate in the TEAMS Lab.
    “The TEAMS Lab teachers from MacArthur and Eisenhower Elementary Schools — Anne Hattok and Jordan Martin, respectively and I — coordinated with each other on a weekly basis,” Kern said. “We discussed what our teaching objectives were and how to accomplish those goals best. This week’s lesson was no different.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Kern said learning about a solar eclipse was relevant to students because of the uniqueness of the event. He said applied learning opportunities like a solar eclipse does not happen every day.
    “In this case, experiencing a total solar eclipse may only happen once in a person’s lifetime — if at all,” Kern said. “We want them to remember this day for the rest of their lives. The ‘S’ in TEAMS Lab stands for science, so my classroom provided the perfect stage to make sure every child was able to learn about the total solar eclipse.”
    Lt. Col. Dan Billquist, MCPT Operations Group Alpha, was watching at Patton with his wife, Jodi, and son, Evan. Evan said he wished it wasn’t cloudy weather.
    “We won’t see the aurora of the sun, which is usually visible during a solar eclipse,” Evan said. “But we will see the total darkness that happens during a totality eclipse.”
    Jodi said viewing the eclipse at Evan’s school was a unique opportunity and a break from unpacking.
    “The school did lots of planning and educated all of us, prepared the students to protect them, and arranged their day to have a chance to see the eclipse,” Jodi said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”
    Billquist said he watched the video Funk and Dixon posted online. He said the video was very informative and fun to watch.
    “(Funk) obviously is very motivated by science. He looks like he’d be a great science teacher to have,” Billquist said. “The flow of information about this event from him has been constant and very helpful.”
    Funk said community members who might not have obtained a T-shirt during the order period, may still be able to get one.
    “We are planning on making the shirts available to parents and students once things have settled down a bit” Funk said. “We will send information out to the families once we have that confirmed. For most people, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
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