Fort Smith schools use eclipse to educate kids

August 22, 2017
Times Record

Students in Fort Smith Public Schools had a chance to learn and be engaged during Monday’s solar eclipse.

Lesson plans were designed for students at different schools that revolved around the eclipse, according to a Fort Smith Public Schools news release. One of the schools was Belle Point: A New Tech Academy.

Belle Point English teacher Kathy Ewing said students were invited to view the eclipse from out in front of the school. The school had the students create pinhole projectors to observe it safely. Other equipment available for this purpose included two pairs of solar eclipse glasses and a welding helmet the students shared.

Students will also partake in a variety of activities that are related to the eclipse in the coming weeks, Ewing said. The viewing was the launch for a project. Belle Point utilizes project-based learning to teach students how to become effective problem-solvers, according to an article previously published in the Times Record.

“They have been doing some research as to what an eclipse is, when the last eclipse was in the U.S., and then some research on upcoming eclipses and then, of course, why is this one so special,” Ewing said. “And it’s because it’s hitting the entire United States East Coast to West Coast, which hasn’t happened in almost a hundred years.”

Ewing said students would be starting a project called, “Once Upon an Eclipse,” which will have more than one component.

“What I’m really excited about is I’m going to have the students research different superstitions about eclipses and various cultures,” Ewing said. “And they’re going to do an in-depth, almost anthropological study on these cultures because I want them to write a historical fiction and be able to have the point of view of somebody from ancient Mesopotamia, and they’re viewing an eclipse, and what is going on in their culture at that point in time.”

Students are to begin their research for the historical fiction part of the project this week, Ewing said. They will also write letters to future Belle Point students. These letters will then be put into a time capsule, which will not be opened until the solar eclipse of 2045.

″… And I want the kids to write about what Belle Point is right now, what they hope that it’ll become, I mean, really, just whatever they want to write to future students, …” Ewing said.

Ewing said she hopes the project will be completed in three weeks.

Another school that allowed students to engage in eclipse-related activities is Trusty Elementary School. Trusty Elementary School Principal Shantelle Edwards said students learned about what was going to happen during the solar eclipse Friday and eclipse safety, as well as background on the eclipse. On Monday, they went out at noon, 12:30 p.m. and 1:05 p.m. to observe the eclipse, and recorded data and observations.

Trusty Elementary School teacher Robyn Bates said students collected data on the temperature both before and during the eclipse when they went out. They also used a light meter to measure how bright the light was. Students entered the data onto NASA’s website as citizen scientists during the eclipse, the news release states.

“We had one program, and what we did is we collected the data, we averaged everything, and then I entered the data into the computer,” Bates said.

Students at Ramsey Junior High School and Woods Elementary School also had a chance to participate in activities centered around the eclipse. Other Fort Smith schools allowed students to watch the eclipse either indoors or outdoors.

Tags: ,