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Sugar House Journal

School year starts off with dark sky but bright year

Oct 05, 2017 17h05 ● By Natalie Mollinet

On her first day of school, Violet got to see a solar eclipse. (Jenny Kearl/Parent)

Students in the Sugar House area spent the first day of school not with their heads buried in books, but instead looking up into the sky with special glasses on. 

“I wanted to make sure that all my students had the opportunity to view the eclipse in a safe way,” Debora Cluff, Highland Park’s principal said. “Teachers were able to instruct the students prior to the start of the eclipse.” 

Utah didn’t experience the full eclipse but they did get to see a 91 percent black out. Students stood outside with their certified eclipse glasses on—provided by the school administration— and stared at the sun as the moon slowly moved across it. The whole event lasted over an hour but the coverage was just a few minutes. 

The event wasn’t just for viewing pleasure but it also helped with the sixth-grade curriculum. Mary Taylor, a sixth-grade teacher at Highland Park, said that the orbit of the moon is part of the curriculum. Usually, students would see a re-enactment with light and two tennis balls on sticks that replicated a solar eclipse, but these students got to see the real deal. 

“To be able to experience such a vivid representation of motion in the solar system was priceless,” Taylor said. “The students are then able to take this experience and relate it to what is taught in the classroom.” 

A total solar eclipse only happens every 18 months but hasn’t occurred in the United States since 1991. The next place a total eclipse will be visible is in South America on July 2, 2019, and the next North American one will be in 2024. 

“We teach phenomena in science,” Paula Marquez, a fifth-grade teacher, said. “Having a solar eclipse is a phenomenon that we don’t see every day. For some people, it will be once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they will see and remember.” 

High schoolers also got a lesson on the eclipse. Highland High School planned school- wide activities with lessons planned around the eclipse and their astronomy teacher brought a large telescope that was equipped with NASA-certified filtration. 

“This is a great way to begin a year,” Marquez said, “and to start off our science core with such an intriguing experience.”