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Eclipse offers learning experience

Staff writer

The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse presents a rare learning opportunity for students as well as a rare phenomenon for anyone to see.

Area schools are making plans ranging from at-school viewing to a road trip to Hiawatha.

Centre schools the most ambitious plan for the solar eclipse.

Science teacher Phil Duerksen said 95 students from seventh through 12th grade will board buses and go to Hiawatha, where they can view the eclipse in totality.

“It’s about three hours from first contact to last contact,” Duerksen said. “The full eclipse lasts about two and a half minutes.”

Students might conduct experiments such as measuring temperature changes and observe other natural phenomena.

“We want to find a multidisciplinary approach,” Duerksen said.

As seen in Marion County, the eclipse will be about 97 percent total coverage of the sun. In northeast Kansas, the eclipse will be total.

“I can tell you we’ll most certainly be out at the stadium during the eclipse,” Marion High School principal Tod Gordon said.

Elementary, middle school, and high school students will get differing pre-eclipse lessons depending on their grade level, Gordon said. The high school will have an assembly before students go to the stadium.

Gordon said the district has purchased eclipse-viewing glasses for all students. The glasses are dark enough nothing can be seen through them.

“I put on a pair of those glasses in my office and stood up, and I couldn’t see the light above me,” Gordon said. “Those glasses are pretty dark.”

Hillsboro superintendent Max Heinrichs said the district has also purchased viewing glasses for the students. He said when he went outside and looked at the sun with the glasses, he saw a dimly-lighted orange thing, Heinrichs said.

Students will have assignments appropriate to the class they are enrolled during the time of the eclipse.

“If they’re in a science class, they might do a science piece, if they are in an English class; they might write an essay about it,” Heinrichs said.

He said that with a 96 to 97 percent solar coverage in Hillsboro, he expects students to be able to see some stars during the eclipse and feel a temperature drop as much as 10 degrees.

He hopes for a clear day to make the most of the show, Heinrichs said.

Goessel superintendent John Fast said the public library donated glasses for students, and they also will make viewing boxes for safe viewing.

“We’re going to encourage them to use viewing boxes where they turn their back to the sun and safely view it,” Fast said.

Planning for the event isn’t yet complete, Fast said.

Bruce Rhodes, who taught high school science at Marion for 31 years, has plans to go to Kansas City with his family to take in a couple Royals games this weekend, then stay around for an extra day and go on a road trip with his son, Matt, to see the total eclipse.

They’ll be looking for a place away from crowds where they can enjoy the show by themselves, Rhodes said.

“I hope we’re going to find a place,” Rhodes said. “We’re prepared to drive as far as central Nebraska or western Missouri. We’re hoping to find a spot with clear skies and good viewing. I want to be in the path of totality and see the actual total eclipse.”

He’s planned to see the eclipse since he was a child.

“It’s been on my list of things to do since I was a kid about 10 years old,” Rhodes said.

His father witnessed the last total eclipse in Kansas back in 1918.

“It’s kind of cool he saw the last eclipse in Kansas and I’m seeing the next one,” Rhodes said. “Maybe my son or grandsons will see the next one in 2045.”

Peabody-Burns students don’t start school until the day after the eclipse, so no events are planned.

“We just kind of let the parents decide what to do,” superintendent Ron Traxson said.

Last modified Aug. 16, 2017

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