Oak Ridge schools use eclipse as rare classroom experience

OAK RIDGE (WATE) – As school districts throughout East Tennessee continue to announce they will stay closed next Monday for the Great American Eclipse, one school system is keeping kids in class.

School system officials in Oak Ridge decided to revolve the school day on August 21 around the astronomical event, even moving kids to other schools within the district to get a better opportunity to watch the eclipse.

A week before the solar eclipse, third graders at Linden Elementary School stood in a circle working on an experiment involving the sun and shadows. For three weeks now, they’ve learned everything from science to myths around the world about the solar eclipse.

“I’m excited about just seeing something different in the sky that I’ve always had,” said third grader Evan Parsons.

“I’m excited that we’re in school doing this,” added classmate Khale Watson.

Related: East Tennessee schools cancel class on day of eclipse due to safety concerns

A number of classes from Linden Elementary will be going to Roane County on the day of the eclipse to watch, putting their homework to good use.

“The moon is going to block the sun and it’s going to turn red, and we’ve never seen this before,” said third grader Emma Diggs.

NOAA will be setting up equipment and experiments for the kids to track everything from wind speed to solar radiation. Classrooms right now are coming up with hypotheses on what will change during the eclipse. Art lessons will even be tailored to the solar event.

“With sun paper, the kids will dip their hands in sunscreen and then they’ll put it on the sun print paper, set it out in the sun, and see it develop,” said Lisa Buckner, a STEM coach and teacher at Linden Elementary.

Four schools in the Oak Ridge system do not fall in the direct path and will only get a partial eclipse. Others will see just seconds of its totality.

“We’re looking at 33 to 35 seconds,” said Principal Garfield Adams at Robertsville Middle School.

It’s the reason why RMS will be hosting Jefferson Middle School next Monday.

Related: Top 50 spots to view the Total Solar Eclipse in East Tennessee

“So you’re looking at possibly 1,400 students on one campus and we have a lot of things planned that day. We actually have a Space Act agreement with NASA,” added Adams.

Over the coming days, the Oak Ridge school system will have lessons, assemblies, and drills focusing on when to put on the correct eye wear.

“I’m hoping for good weather, like the sun is out, and a beautiful day so we can see the eclipse,” said third grader Ricardo Smith.

“We get to see it and that’s all that matters,” added Diggs.

Every lesson so far this school year has mattered to teachers because it’s making the eclipse come alive.

“So maybe it’s one of my students will actually be on Mars one day,” said Buckner.

The Oak Ridge City School System wants to remind parents during the eclipse, schools will be on lockdown. If parents want to check their children out early, it must happen before noon the day of the eclipse.

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