WAXAHACHIE — As the excitement built on Monday afternoon, watch parties all over Ellis County flocked together for a moment of awe.
While other states enjoyed a full solar eclipse in the line of totality, Texas viewers didn’t shy away from the experience that coincided with the first day of school on Aug. 21.
As stated in a previous Daily Light article, looking directly at the sun can cause severe, irreversible damage to the retina, resulting in blindness.
A serious risk the county schools were not going to chance.
Putting their students’ safety as the number one priority, many Ellis County school districts decided to keep students in-doors throughout the eclipse, letting parents know through online announcements.
The safety reasons extended from unsafe solar glasses being recalled from unapproved suppliers days before the eclipse, to temperatures rising in a heat advisory and general eye safety concerns.
However, this didn't stop educators from giving attention to the natural phenomenon.
From live streaming from NASA's broadcast in classrooms to creative activities and discussions on the science behind the moon's shadow, Red Oak Elementary was one of many education outlets that took advantage of the extraordinary moment.
“They [the students] modeled stationary and participated in activities,” began Jessica Darst, fifth-grade science teacher at Red Oak Elementary. “And then we talked about the path and hula hooping, and if you’ve ever hula hooped it never hit the same place twice. So we talked about that being the moon’s orbit, and they liked that.”
“And they asked, ‘How come this isn’t happening every year? How come it doesn’t happen all of the time?’ And we looked at when it would happen again, which is seven years from now, and then we’ll be in the path of a complete eclipse, a solar blackout. And they’re pretty excited about that,” she added.
Though the eclipse event only lasted about two and a half hours and didn’t darken North Texas skies, onlookers watched the celestial wonder, witnessing a prospect of history that hasn't happened on this exact path since 1503.
“I don’t think they [the students] quite know yet; it probably will not mean that much to them until February when we learn about seasons and earth’s rotation,” Darst acknowledged. “But for the most part, they thought it was pretty cool.”
As most students remained indoors from 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., a gathering of families formed on the back lawn of the Nicholas P. Sims Library with solar glasses, welders masks, and homemade pinhole projects to welcome in the eclipse.
“It’s really, really cool,” expressed Katy-Jayne Olivo, a 12-year-old viewer. “We’ve seen a lunar eclipse before but not a solar eclipse, so this is really cool.”
“It’s cool because the sun is still shining and only a fourth of it is covered,” jumped in Katy-Jane’s nine-year-old sister, Jordan Olivo, “It’s really special.”
As the moon passed about 70 percent of the sun’s surface and crescent shadows formed all around, observers stood in admiration at the 2017 solar eclipse, expectant of the next one in 2024.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer