EPISD’s return to classes on Monday will not be your average first day of school.
The district still expects nervous kindergarteners, excited seniors and plenty of traffic around its campuses; but at around 10:30 a.m., the first day of school will take on an unusual phenomenon: a total eclipse of the sun.
The Great American Eclipse will take place Monday, providing an opportunity for students to experience science in action.
Roddenberry Planetarium program manager Evelyn Maldonado was on hand Wednesday during the EPISD Connect at Chapin and Irvin high schools to provide information and show teachers safe ways for students to view the solar eclipse.
“This is all about safety. With science, we are always thinking about lab safety. We want to provide a safe way to view the eclipse without hurting our eyes,” Maldonado said.
She suggested looking at the eclipse through a do-it-yourself pinhole projector, using a mirror to reflect the sun on a wall or even using two index cards. She showcased a projector she made using a shoebox, piece of foil and tape.
“The projector is very simple to make, and it’s completely safe for students to use,” Maldonado said.
The image of the eclipse is projected through a pinhole to the back of a shoebox, so students can see the eclipse without having to look into the sky.
Due to its projected path, only a partial eclipse will be visible from El Paso, starting at 10:30 a.m. and peaking around 11:47 a.m.
“I believe it’s a great teaching moment. Not only for our science teachers but also our history teachers,” Maldonado said. “Solar eclipses have always been thought of as historic moments. Different cultures have their own beliefs of what eclipses represent.”
Alta Vista teacher Minerva Salcedo is looking forward to sharing the special moment with her fifth-grade science class.
“It’s definitely a teachable moment,” Salcedo said. “I remember experiencing a solar eclipse when I was about nine or ten, and it is an experience I will never forget.”
She plans on having her students use the two-index card method, placing one card on the floor and another with a pinhole to project the eclipse downward.
“I think that will be a good way for the students to really get a feel for what is happening and keep them looking at the floor and not up at the sky,” Salcedo said.
The next solar eclipse visible from the continental United States won’t take place until April 8, 2024.
“I really hope they get inspired, and they get excited and share that with their students,” Maldonado said. “I know it will be the first day of classes, but it’s a great opening act for the schools. It is science at its best.”
Some pointers to keep in mind when viewing a solar eclipse:
- Not all solar eclipse glasses are created equal. The American Astronomical Society has a list of recommended glasses and viewers here. Or check out NASA.gov for approved brands and additional viewing and safety tips.
- To get a sense of how dark the sky in El Paso will get during the eclipse’s peak, click here.
- To read more about the solar eclipse, visit the Roddenberry Planetarium website.