- October 1, 2016
In a cosmic twist of fate, the solar system and Hershorin Schiff Community Day School’s calendar overlapped on Aug. 21 for the opportunity of the decade.
“It was so nice of the solar system to plan the eclipse for the first day (of school,)” Community Day Head of School Dan Ceaser joked.
Administrators added the purchase of eclipse-viewing glasses to their list of usual back-to-school preparations and waiting with anticipation for the main event.
But a realization cast a shadow on their excitement.
“We got a couple packages of solar eclipse glasses. One of them had the right number on them and one of them didn’t,” Ceaser said. “Some of them had all the right markings. They look like they have all the right specifications, but we couldn’t confirm with 100% certainty.”
Although administrators were fairly certain at least some of the glasses were up to the proper viewing standards, they couldn't confirm. After conferring with a local ophthalmologist, Caesar and the rest of the community staff decided to ditch the glasses in favor of some project-based learning.
“When it comes to safety, don’t chance it,” he said.
Students spent the morning constructing eight different pinhole viewing devices and tested them as the eclipse reached its local peak at about 2:50 p.m.
"What was more impactful was all the learning that we did before we went out to the playground," kindergarten teacher Shonna Brady said.
When the time came students filed outside, shoe boxes and paper pin-hole viewing devices in tow. Children were instructed to keep their eyes down, careful not to look directly at the sun. Younger students, like Brady's kindergarteners, were paired with older students to help explain the viewing process.
Not all the viewers were created equal. Some preferred the paper pin-hole viewers to the boxes, while others peered through the glasses they brought themselves.
"We made it work," Ceaser said. "Probably the coolest part was hearing the kids compare why some viewers worked better than others. It was pretty fun to see and hear the kids work through the thought process."
By the end of the day, the children were still buzzing about their brush with the cosmos. The only evidence of the change of plans were two neatly stacked piles of unused solar eclipse glasses in the school office.
“What started as somewhat of a bummer turned out really fun,” Caeser said.
Although he concedes deciding to abandon the glasses was a disappointment, he said he was excited for the learning opportunities afforded to students despite the change of plans.
"The kids enjoyed it,” Caeser said. “They learned a lot and had fun. The kids got to see and experience an eclipse. You don't get to see that every day, and we got to do it safe."