Monday’s long-awaited solar eclipse is giving Bloomington-Normal teachers an opportunity to get their students excited about science.
At Unit 5’s Benjamin Elementary School, a grant from the Beyond the Books Educational Foundation is being used to buy safety glasses for students and staff. It’s also being used to buy materials for various science experiments that students are doing related to the eclipse.
Students will see how the sun changes the color of solar beads and sun-print paper around the eclipse. Older students will measure how light and solar energy changes as a result of the eclipse.
The eclipse is leading curious students to ask all sorts of science questions, said Christine Sewell, the fifth-grade teacher at Benjamin Elementary who won the Beyond the Books grant.
“It’s exciting for them as students, and it’s also really exciting and rewarding for me to watch them experience it and see all the different places they go with it,” Sewell said.
The grant will also help Benjamin Elementary bring an Illinois author to the school in a few weeks to talk with students about using real-life experiences—like the eclipse—to write stories of their own.
“It’s helping us to launch a whole year of not only science, and how scientists think and work, it’s also helping us launch of language-arts program for the year,” Sewell said.
In Unit 5, each school is handling it a little differently, said district spokesperson Dayna Brown. Some teachers may include the eclipse as part of their lesson plans, and students may venture outside during their lunchtime. All students must have a signed permission waiver if they’re going outside.
“If you feel strongly about your child experiencing the eclipse, you are welcome to call out your child from school and view the eclipse with them,” Normal West Principal Dave Johnson wrote to parents.
District 87 isn’t planning to send a waiver home, said Superintendent Barry Reilly. "We have provided the solar eclipse glasses, instructions on their safe use, and various resources and links for teachers to use with their students," said Cindy Helmers, District 87's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. "We are excited to have the opportunity to experience this astronomical event!"
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