Submitted by Oak Ridge Schools
The Great American Eclipse was unique in Oak Ridge, as we were on the coveted path of totality. Some solar eclipse fanatics will travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars just to get themselves into The Path. We took advantage of this rare opportunity that came to our back yard for the breathtaking experience of totality with our students and staff.
We had an interesting challenge, though. The edge of the path of totality cut through town in such a way that four of our schools would only experience a partial eclipse if students and staff stayed on campus. The total solar eclipse has several attributes that are not visible outside the path of totality, such as the sudden appearance of stars and planets, the solar corona becoming visible, and a temperature drop. To ensure all of our students had the opportunity for this rich total eclipse experience, we provided transportation to move everyone who wanted to participate into The Path.
All campuses treated the day as a field trip with parent permission forms as a requirement for outdoor viewing. In Oak Ridge, the start of the partial eclipse was at 1:04 pm, totality took place at 2:33 pm, and the second half of partial eclipse ended at 3:58 pm. For safety while viewing the partial eclipse, Oak Ridge Schools provided NASA-approved eclipse glasses to all students and staff.
Second- through fourth-grade students and staff from Linden Elementary School traveled to Roane State Community College in Harriman for the day. STEM leader Lisa Buckner received a grant from UCOR that allowed her to provide activities such as the release of a NOAA weather balloon to measure temperature drops. FIRST Robotics students from Oak Ridge High School also contributed to the learning with solar tubes that students launched and flew throughout the day.
School started on time and dismissed an hour late. Linden Elementary, Willow Brook Elementary, Robertsville Middle School, and Oak Ridge High School are all located along the path of totality, allowing students who desired to stay on campus to do so. Linden kindergarten and first grade classes hosted Oak Ridge Schools Preschool. Jefferson joined Robertsville. Woodland Elementary hosted activities at the Boys and Girls Club. Glenwood Elementary hosted activities at Big Turtle Park. The Secret City Academy traveled to the former K-25 site (East Tennessee Technology Park) to take part in the event with the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which deputized them as junior rangers.
Prior to the eclipse, the entire staff benefited from a presentation led by Chap Percival, eclipse expert from Florida, who is the creator of the site called “Go See the Eclipse (and take a kid with you)” at goseetheeclipse.org. Each of the schools implemented learning activities with presentations from community partners including Obed park rangers, NASA, NOAA, and local experts. Lessons included practicing safe viewing with approved eclipse glasses and pinhole apparatuses. Students read literature about eclipses and the relationship between the sun, moon, and earth. Several schools also took the opportunity to create artistic representations of the event, using music, movement, and writing to express responses to the occasion. Through careful preparation and planning, as well as cooperative efforts from people across the district (and country), we were able to celebrate an unforgettable event that serendipitously arrived directly on our doorstep. We now agree with Chap Percival. The best way to see an eclipse is to “take a kid with you!”
This story and photos were submitted by Holly Cross.