The first day of school here at Liberal Elementary School is always an exciting day for both teachers and students. This year we had the extra added bonus of having it also be on the same day as the Great American Eclipse. From the moment students arrived at school on August 21st the talk was all about the upcoming solar eclipse that day.
Of course our preparation for the Great American Eclipse started much earlier! At the end of our previous school year I contacted Astronomers Without Borders about getting solar eclipse glasses donated to our school district. Thanks to their unbelievable generosity we were able to get 100 pairs of glasses donated. In our small, rural school that was enough for three grades. I was fortunate enough to also have the Lamar, MO Walmart donated 25 more pairs of glasses to cover another grade. This left our school only having to purchase about 100 more pairs of glasses to have enough for our entire elementary school.
Other preparations had to be made as well before we could actually go out and view the eclipse that day. Our school insurance was concerned about letting students see the eclipse due to the potential of a student damaging his or her eyes. Our insurance required that we have each student’s parent sign a permission form to view the eclipse. Since the eclipse was on the first day of school this was not an easy task. Thankfully through the use of social media and ClassDojo we were able to inform parents about the importance of coming in to meet the teacher night or sometime the week before to sign the form. When Monday arrived we only had a handful of students that could not view the solar eclipse.
Once all the preparation was done it was time for the main event, the Great American Eclipse. All morning we had our normal routine for the first day of school. After lunch however all that changed and our focus was on the eclipse. The first thing I did was discuss with my students the importance of following the safety rules in place. The conversation then turned to what exactly causes a solar eclipse and how often such an event happens.
The moment we got outside and all the students put on their solar eclipse glasses all the conversation and excitement leading up to that moment came to a climax. As the students looked up at the sun to see the eclipse there was no talking, no joking, just silence and stunned faces. It was a moment I will never forget. The first words I heard from a student was “this is amazing!” The students absolutely loved every moment of being outside looking at the solar eclipse. Nobody, myself included, wanted to go back inside for regular school after that moment.
Having the Great American Eclipse on the first day of school was a very special moment for my students and me. As a teacher you can’t ask for a better teachable moment. I feel like this event set the tone for the upcoming school year. I want to build on the excitement and enthusiasm that the solar eclipse brought to my classroom and carry it on throughout the year!
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