Joyous shrieks rose in a wave, as hundreds of students at Pleasant Crossing Elementary School in Whiteland scrambled to put their solar-protective glasses on and stared up at the sky.
With clouds rolling through central Indiana during the Great American Eclipse, any time the sun peeked out was cause for excitement. That first realization as they looked at the sun and saw a large black chunk covering it was exhilarating.
“It was awesome,” said fifth-grader Keigen Miller. “It looked like the moon was curving around the sun.”
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The students and staff at Pleasant Crossing spent about 30 minutes watching the moon slide across face of the sun Monday. Everyone had been provided a pair of the safe eclipse glasses by the school’s PTO, and teachers had spent the past few days training their students on the importance of protecting their eyes during the celestial event.
All of the precautions were worth it, though, in order to let the children take part in one of the most unique occurrences in nature, principal Terry Magnuson said.
“It’s what’s been talked about in the news, on social media and all of those things. It gives them an opportunity to participate, and it might help get them interested in what science is about,” he said. “It’s a way to engage the kids and doing something that’s enlightening to them. It’s all about learning.”
Starting at around 2:10 p.m., classrooms started letting out to take their places outside. Every student at Pleasant Crossing had an opportunity to see the eclipse. Children whose parents did not want them outside during the eclipse still received a pair of solar glasses, and watched the live stream of the event from NASA, Magnuson said.
Teachers repeated the safety instructions they had practiced, and reminded them to alternate glancing up and resting their eyes.
The students scrambled to put their glasses on each time the sun showed itself. By the time the partial eclipse reached the fullest extent it would in central Indiana, glimpses of the sun were fleeting.
Finally, after a half-hour outside, the teachers gathered the children together and they went back indoors. But even in a short time, many of the kids still were in awe about their experience.
Fifth-grader Edwin Munoz-Rubio echoed the sentiments that many of his classmates had made: “It was awesome.”
Plans started coming together in mid-July to make sure students took advantage of the partial eclipse. The idea came from the PTO, who approached Magnuson with a plan to purchase a pair of safety glasses for each student and staff member in the school.
Magnuson agreed, as long as they could take safety precautions to make sure the students knew how to protect their eyes during the eclipse.
Teachers and staff had been training for weeks about how to ensure students knew how to best use the eclipse glasses. Each had to watch a NASA-created video, and stressed how staring at the sun without the glasses can damage your eyesight.
“We went over and over all of the safety and making sure we knew what to do,” fifth-grader Matthew Rudd said.
But in addition to reiterating the safety instructions, teachers at Pleasant Crossing also wanted students to understand some of the mechanics of what they would be seeing.
Melissa Buteau, the STEM instructor at the school, has spent weeks working with models to visualize just how an eclipse works. Students made artwork relating to the eclipse.
“It’s been a school-wide effort preparing students for this opportunity,” Magnuson said.
Second-grade students in Ashley Stoker’s classroom made “eclipse journals,” to keep the different projects and information they had received leading up to Monday.
“That will keep this memory alive for them,” Stoker said. “It’s a huge opportunity. This has never happened in my lifetime, and they’re going to see two in theirs.”